University of Vermont AAHS

Letter to the Editor: Certification Clinic

[reproduced from Fall 2002 Caution:Horses]


My name is Lanny French I am a Mounted Park Patrol Ranger for the City of Waco. I am in charge of training new rangers and remounts for our unit, and even though our unit is small we patrol our beat twice a day, weather permitting, and are called upon to do a variety of tasks. For years we have done equine related programs for school children in the Waco area. These programs usually consist of a ranger mounted on a horse explaining how we accomplish our tasks with our horses, but we wanted to do more, we wanted to put a larger investment in the inner-city children that we would normally see for about an hour. After much research, and seeing first hand how children respond to horses through some horsemanship classes that we did for Waco Center for the Youth (a place for extremely disturbed children here in Waco), we decided to offer horsemanship classes for inner-city children in the Waco Independent School District free of charge. Our goal is: to give children an opportunity to experience horses that ~ would otherwise not have the opportunity, to build confidence by showing them they can accomplish a goal, show them how to relate well to horses in hopes that this lesson will i help them relate well to people, and to possibly help them become productive citizens that may have otherwise been lost to the culture of their surroundings. Our fact-finding mission led us to Matt Cunningham, and after we expressed legal and safety concerns he recommended us to the AAHS, which in turn led me to Mary Nelson.  

I have recently completed the Instructor Certification Clinic at Rocky River Ranch, in Wimberley with Mary and Barry Nelson. Mary did an excellent job fielding the barrage of questions that I presented to her. The thorough explanation of the legal and risk management aspects associated with riding instruction was completely helpful. I must admit, after the first legal session I had fears about doing a riding program for children, however the education of such matters began to erase the fear. My fear before the clinic, especially being employed by a municipality, was that I may have to go to court someday if something goes wrong; my theory now is to prepare each day to go to court. I do not mean this in a negative way, but in a thoughtful and orderly manner with an understanding of the steps that need to occur to best protect our program. 

The clinic, along with the study of the book "Teaching Safe Horsemanship", was presented in an insightful manner that led me to think about safety issues that, sad to say, I had not thought of before. The clinic would have been of absolute value if I had plans to never instruct anyone in horsemanship. I was totally amazed at how the secure seat system worked. One of the greatest assets of the clinic was being able to observe Mary and Barry's students taking lessons throughout the week. Mary and Barry's understanding of, and commitment to this system shines through their students. I observed a good number of students of various ages and abilities, and I stood in awe of the seat these children had developed using this system. I had noticed the same thing with the children Matt Cunningham was instructing at the Methodist Home Boys Ranch here in Waco.  

Another observation, (that I do not always see at clinics) is the fact that Mary and Barry practiced that which they preached - even in off times of the clinic I noticed Mary and Barry adhering to the AAHS safety guidelines. I would also like to thank you for taking the time to put these steps and procedures in print. Even though I understand that I could easily be in court someday defending our horsemanship program, I feel good that I have a system to work from and an understanding that prevention really is the best cure.  My love for horses is much larger than my intelligence, however my work ethic is good so I will continue to review the legal and risk management portions, while continuing to practice the secure seat system in hopes that I will represent the AAHS with integrity. 


Lanny French

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