Intake Assessment II

Recently we started doing a new Intake Assessment process, and I really like it, so as usual wanted to share. These are the assessment activities my current barn now use for new riders and again throughout the year to determine progression in areas of functional ability, based on a nationally published assessment test that one of our team members modified for therapeutic riding.

For a review of the purpose of intake assessments, see the earlier post “The Intake Assessment”.  P.S. I don’t know whether to call it an “intake lesson” or an “assessment”, so I use both words. You probably shouldn’t copy me on that.

Intake Assessment II

Note: I like to invite the parent/guardian/caregiver to participate with the client during the assessment because they tend to know best how much support to give, and I learn a lot watching how they interact with the client – especially when they are not very verbal.

Unmounted Activities

  • Client Interview/Introduction
    • Request the client identify his/her name, the current location, and the date (minimally the year)
    • Ask questions such as: How long have you been riding? Who’s your favorite horse? Tell me something you did in your last lesson.
    • (Use a formal interview or weave these into your welcoming discussion)
    • = use to assess receptive and expressive language, thought process, long and short term memory, social interest, cooperation, speech ability, etc.
  • Ambulation Activities
    • Request client walk around room – or watch for how client ambulates upon arrival (shows you how they will get out to the mounting area – walk? walker? wheelchair?)
    • Request the client balance on 1 foot for 10 seconds, each foot (shows if they can balance on one foot well enough to croup mount, or if they need max assistance or a modified mount)
    • Request Client jump up/down 5x, note if swings arms
    • Request the client walk up/down stairs – to test strength ask client to do so while carrying bucket (shows if they can walk up the mounting block steps or need the lift/ramp)
    • = use to assess ambulation, balance, coordination, strength, how much assistance needed, endurance, whether needs breaks, helps determine mounting procedure and plan how much to challenge in lesson endurance/balance wise
  • Introductory Mounted Activities on fake horse (ours is a barrel with a saddle)
    • Request/Assist client in mounting the practice horse (ours has a little ledge, which lets you see how well the client can control their foot placement and balance)
    • Request client sit upright without physical assistance from the upper extremities
    • Request client participate in 3 exercises: (base on client)
    • arms out to the side
    • backwards arms circles
    • two point position
    • = use to assess balance and coordination, how you will mount the rider, how much sidewalker assistance will be needed, and which exercises you will be able to start with
  • Manipulation Activities (while on fake horse)
    • Request client using one hand to grasp requested object from a bucket of various items (inclulding ball, horse shoe, and clothespin – different types of things to grip/squeeze/pinch) then reach across the midline and deposit item in the other bucket
    • = use to assess strength, hand/eye coordination, attention, concentration, focus, cooperation, muscle weakness, etc.
  • Dismount fake horse
    • = use to assess how you will dismount the rider, practice teaching correct technique

Mounted Activities

Note: For some potential clients it may be preferable to do an unmounted grooming activity instead of ride. The following activities can easily be modified for unmounted horse work.

  • Mount horse – based on earlier mounting of fake horse
    • review steps
    • = assess ability to follow directions, body control, focus, recall, etc.
  • Warmup
  • Horse Anatomy Introduction – teach 3 horse parts, can use for stretches (touch mane, touch tail, touch withers, etc.)
    • = assess expressive and receptive language, short term memory, comfort in letting go, balance, coordination, etc. – helps you determine what exercises to use in the future
  • Skill Introduction (for first time rider will probably be voice aids “Walk On” and “Whoa” or basic rein use)
  • Practice
  • Progress to use skill through Obstacle Course (course depends on client)
    • Describe obstacle course with objective such as move ring to pole
    • Request client describe step by step plans to achieving objective (“how will we do ______?”)
    • Request client demonstrate plan described – note if needs volunteer assistance, and if completes objective
    • = assess concentration, focus, receptive language, expressive language, decision making ability, emotional expression, leadership, confidence, frustration, purposeful interaction with environment, social interaction, gross motor skills, hand eye coordination, ability to follow several step directions, etc. – help determine what activities would be beneficial to include in future lessons
  • Horse Anatomy Review
    • Request client identify 3 parts that were identified earlier
    • = assess long term memory, expressive language, recall, how much prompting needed to remember, etc.
  • Dismount – based on earlier dismounting of fake horse
    • review steps
    • = assess ability to follow directions, body control, focus, recall, etc.

I really like this new assessment process because I feel that after the ground activities I am more prepared and confident about putting the rider on the horse because I have a better idea of how they will react. Also, including the parent/guardian/caretaker in the process opens up a dialogue with everyone that makes it feel like a team, a dialogue that can be continued week to week.

However, one of the first clients I did this process with was a little kid who was so excited about everything then proceeded to cry bloody murder as soon as he got on the horse, so it won’t tell you everything.


Functional assessment notes sheet – here is a VERY basic sheet that I created for me to take notes on for intake assessments that could be used for reassessments and modified for your own needs.


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!

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