Seven Oaks Farm

Tips for a Great Visit #2

Great Facility Visits

When you make visits to over 75 assisted living facilities, you see a lot and learn a lot. We began to put together a list for activities directors so they could be prepared for the horses when we arrived. The list of tips was handed out during the pre-visit; we wanted to keep our staff and horses as well as the residents safe.

REMEMBER YOUR PRE-VISIT!

Being the directions and map genius of the group; Kate would make the pre-visit. She drove to the facility about a week or two in advance to meet the activities director and hand them a pre-visit packet with written documents about who we are, what all our handlers are required to go through and health certificates for all the therapy horses. We also include information about what a typical donation amount would be and why we need the donation, our W-9 form and tips to make the visit safe and enjoyable for everyone involved.

Tips for a Great Visit #1

A while back we posted our first tip for a great visit: #1 During every visit we provide for your facility, please have an activities director or staff member escort our teams for the entirety of the visit. If our team is left unattended for any reason we will terminate the visit. We make this explicitly clear during the pre-visit to make sure we are not trapped in a lockdown unit or walk into a quarantined room without prior knowledge. Having someone who is familiar with the residents escort you through the facility is a life-saver. They know the patients well enough to let you know who may have an aggressive tendency, who might bite or grab, and alert you to that before you enter the room. They will also know all the door codes to lockdown units and - if there were any issues, could be another set of eyes. If you plan to bring more than one team in for a visit, make sure there is an escort with each team; always err on the safer side.

Tips for a Great Visit #2

This tip is also very important during your pre-visit. The second tip for a great visit: #2 Determine who we will visit and if we are visiting a group or individuals. Make sure you talk thru a plan at the pre-visit with the activities director before you arrive the day of with the horses. Remember too, if you decide to visit this facility once a month that you can rotate visitors; one month a group visit, the next month switch to individualized visits. This way, you can visit with different patients and bring various horses. The residents always enjoy meeting new horses; but be prepared for residents to learn their names and ask for them the next time!

Check the Surroundings

When you get to the facility on your pre-visit, it is a good idea to “scope out the space”. At your pre-visit, discuss where you can park your vehicle and where they would like you to enter and exit. Many facilities will “cone off” an area the day of our visit. Typically, the activities director will have an area in mind for you to visit with their residents. Here are some things to think about when looking at a room (or patio area) for a therapy horse visit:

  • most of the group visitors will likely be in wheelchairs which will require extra space and the need to move around,

  • see how the sun or light exposure is coming in, and look for shadows,

  • point out any tight spaces,

  • take not of the flooring and/or plants in the room,

  • for patio area - look for grass, and

  • locate any medical equipment and placement.

Make sure to look for things as you walk through the building that might be new to your horses (ie: a bird cage) and add that to your training list. If you are asked to use an elevator, note the small differences between this one and others your horse may have been exposed to. For us, an elevator is an elevator; but for horses, even one detail that is different - makes it a new experience.

REVIEW AND MAKE IT CLEAR

When you’re finishing your pre-visit, make sure you review with the activities director the details of the visit. If you have decided the facility will have a group visit to start - that is the plan. Let the director know the type of visit determines the horses that you will bring so changes cannot be made. We are very firm with the idea that “The Plan is the Plan” and making changes at the last minute may mean that their visit will be shortened or canceled.

Hot Topic: Potty Trained?

CAN YOU TRULY “POTTY TRAIN” A HORSE?

This is something that is a true argument between miniature horse owners. Before we start the conversation, we need to clarify a few details:

  1. The idea of potty training. When people hear potty training, they typically assume you are talking about a dog. Where: the dog itself is trained to stand by a door or bark until you, the owner, pays attention and lets the animal out to go potty. The animals are signaling to the owner that they need to relieve themselves. The owner doesn’t need to constantly be on watch for signs.

  2. With-holding food. For a horse to be healthy - they need to be eating 18-20 hours of the day. Otherwise, they develop ulcers and can have serious health problems. Certainly, if an animal isn’t given food - they won’t need any relief. But, for horses to be healthy… this is not an option.

  3. Horses enjoy routine. If they are used to doing the same thing - chances are, they will get used to that routine and stick with it. That routine is developed and they know to relieve themselves in the same spot over a period of time; such as a special place in the yard or in the trailer.

  4. Horses do not have the sense to “hold it” like a trained dog (and human) can do. They will just go. And handlers are always on guard to watch the animal for signs or signals.

Okay: so with these details… You can start to see why we believe:

Horses cannot be potty trained in the same sense that a dog can be potty trained.

 

Dog vs. Horse Potty Training

Dallas, Buddy, and Skye

When an animal is “potty trained” they are considered to know that relieving themselves inside is bad, and that they need to alert their owner that they need to go. The owner can be doing other things, and will be alerted by the animal itself; there is no constant-following or supervision to watch the animal to make sure they don’t go in the house - since they are trained. With that explained; horses do not give a sign to their owner, rather, the hander needs to be on constant lookout to watch their horse for signs.

Here’s an example: I know when Wendy starts to move around after an hour of standing still during a visit, that we need to go outside to let her relieve herself. She hasn’t announced through pawing or nudging (signs she is trained not to do during a visit anyways) that she needs to relieve herself, instead I am watching for a sign. AND I know we have been on a visit for about an hour - the typical timeframe a horse will need to relieve itself anyways. So we go outside to the trailer and she relieves herself.

 

With-holding Food

Now, I’ve already mentioned how often horses need to be eating. We never-ever keep food away from the horses before a visit. There is always hay in the trailer with water in a bucket, or at least in a sealed container since certain horses like knocking over the water 😏… and they will always be offered water before and after a visit. (I think I nailed this one on the head now.)

 

Routine

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Herd animals enjoy doing the same thing over and over again. Have you ever noticed horses getting bent out of shape when you feed at a different time than “usual”? The nature of these animals is to follow the same routine. So naturally, if they are used to the routine of a visit they will automatically learn that after a certain task is performed they continue to the next. Our pre-visit routine is the same each time: a) bathe the horses, b) let them dry in the corral, c)load into the trainer {cue relieving themselves, also because they smell it}, d) make the visit, e) return to the trailer {again, a cue to relieve themselves} f) return home and roll in the dirt. See: although the visit location of the visit may differ, the routine is always the same. Notice with the more veteran therapy horses… take Denver for example. When we put on a BunBag, vest, clean his hooves and brush his mane and tail he seems to “get in the mood” for the visit. He understands this is the same as always and has very trusting relationship with us. His head drops and he is ready for visitors.

But wait: You still put on a BunBag?

YES! We will always put a BunBag on. When we were first doing training visits years ago, we were getting so caught up and nervous watching the horse for signs that we couldn’t focus on the patient/horse experience. The bags are a security for us as handlers. Then, we don’t have to keep watching and honestly, stressing, to watch and observe the horse for signs they may have to go. Remember, horses can hear your heartbeat - so when your anxiety increases your heart rate increases and the horses will notice that and become unsettled with you.

Fun Fact: Horses only pee 2 - 3 times a day; However, they will poop almost every hour.

Also consider: if you are doing a visit where your horses are eating in the grass while visitors pet them - they will more than like poop during that visit. What goes in always comes out.

Always Remember: Horse are unpredictable.

You could think your horse is doing well remembering the routine of a visit, but something can always happen. Even our more experienced horses have pooped in their bag during a visit. Some horses are coined as “double-poopers” and we keep note of that. These are horses that will stress poop for various reasons. You just never know. And instead of constantly watching our horse for signs, simply leaving the relieving to be relieved; we can have a fun enjoyable visit with a built-in safety net for the horse.

We never leave the farm without a bag on, that is our policy. I take everything we came with back to the farm.


DOES THIS TOPIC INTEREST YOU? TAKE ONE OF OUR SEMINARS


More Seminar Dates Announced

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 Our seminars are very popular and have been given great reviews by those who have attended. Since so many of you have asked for addition dates we have decided to put together a very special set of classes that will be held only here in Ohio.  

We are offering a specially designed class that will combine Level 1 and Level 2  with hours of hands on training and participating in an actual visit. These seminars will be held  here at our farm in Hamilton, Ohio. The classes will be small so that each student gets plenty of personal attention and the ability to practice what you have learned. The classes are limited to 6 students and you will be able to work with our horses for all the hands on portion, you will also be able to experience our specific training methods for both horses and handlers. While you are here with us we will do an actual visit, you will be able to experience first hand what its like with our trained handlers by your side. You will walk thru all the steps necessary for preparing the horses for a visit, going on a therapy visit and a post visit evaluation. Our desire is for you to get a full experience in animal assisted therapy and gain as much experience as you can. 

Miniature Therapy Horses Level 1

This portion of our seminars is key to understanding our philosophy to our program and how we approach all the training we do for horses and handlers. It is also created as a road map to help you walk thru the maze of question you might have in regards to insurance, setting up a visit, becoming a 501C3, training your horse, choosing a horse, becoming a handler, finding good products and a whole host of other needs. The Level 1 seminar will include a study guide you can take home that will contain pages and pages of all the information discussed in the lectures. The guide will allow you to follow along and take notes as well. we cover Level 1 Friday evening and into Saturday. 

 

Miniature Therapy Horses Level 2 

This course is designed to take all the information you gained in Level 1 and put it into practice. This portion of the seminar is hands on and will walk you thru the steps of choosing a horse, training your horse and preparing for the different levels of registration. It will also give you practical guidance when it comes to handling your horse for various types of visits. Both of these courses are key to our program and build upon each other. Taking these seminars will allow you to register your horse through our program free of charge. Level 2 will be covered Saturday with a visit for you to participate in and ending Sunday with more training and one on one training. 

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Dates for Seminars Level 1 &2  Hamilton, Ohio 

Aril 27-29, 

June 1-3,

August 27-29

October 5-7

We are excited to share our experience and expertise with those who are desiring to learn more about animal assisted therapy with miniature horses. We would love to have you participate as an individual or as a group. If you think this experience is for you or have interest, please contact us for further details.