Lesson Eval of a Rider with CP

I have a sweet rider who has CP that I wanted ideas for, so I asked my director to evaluate my lesson with them the other day. I want to share the results with you!

Lesson Eval of a Rider with CP

Lesson Plan

Rider Diagonsis:

  • CP, weak right side to the extend their back curves over to the right and they have difficulty straightening up, especially with their neck, low core strength, delayed muscle coordination
  • difficulty speaking but communicates with hand motions such as thumbs up or down, pointing with their eyes, and speaking a few words slowly – I keep constant communication with them about how they are doing, if they’re tired, if it hurts, if they want more or less support, etc.
  • no cognitive delays, very sharp and smart
  • they ride in a vest and rest their head on the right shoulder strap, holding on to the grab strap with their left hand, and steering with their right hand; they can straighten up their back and head by lifting their chest and turning to the left, but can only hold it for a few seconds, and the more they do this the more tired they get, so we practice this during transitions (walk-halt, halt-walk, and turns)
  • they can readjusts themselves in the saddle on their own at the halt by pushing in the stirrups and pulling with their hand to scoot their seat over
  • my biggest concern was the right side weakness and stress on the neck, which was why I wanted ideas from our director
  • their general riding posture from the back looks like this – as they gets tired they lean even more to the right and often needs a hand of support on their right side or on the vest handle.



  • Improve coordination of aids.
  • Increase upper extremity strength.


  • Rider will steer their horse using reins and turning their head 75% of the time at the walk, with L, SW thigh hold, min VP.
  • Rider will ask their horse to walk on using voice and leg aids 100% of the time with L, SW thigh hold, min VP.
  • Rider will sit up tall during transitions 100% of the time for a whole lesson with L, SW thigh hold, min VP.

Equipment Needed:

  • Tack: English, cotton/gel pads, rainbow reins on bridle
  • fluffy saddle pad cover (last week they said riding hurt between their legs as their physique pitches them forward a bit)
  • left stirrup 1 hold shorter (that foot had trouble reaching the stirrup due to the way their body curves to the right from their hips, so until we can fix the posture I’ll keep it up so they can use that foot to give themselves support)
  • Horse: narrow, smooth, medium height – short enough for SW to hold vest handles if needed

Arena Setup:

  • 8 cones – set up circle with pairs on the quarters

00 Active Neutral 2

Volunteers Needed:

  • 1 leader
  • 2 sidewalkers – strong/tall SW on right side
  • support: thigh hold at all times unless the rider asks for more

Lesson Content:

  • Introduction:
    • Safety Check
    • Helper intros
    • Discuss use of saddle cushion – determined yes let’s try it
    • Review with SW how to give assistance (only thigh hold unless they ask for more, some support on right side vest when they tire at the halt)
  • Girth/Posture Check
  • Mounting Type/Order:
    • Lift, wheelchair, croup – they unbuckles themselves and holds your hand with their right hand, stands up, holds the saddle with their left hand, and gets their foot over the saddle pretty much on their own!
  • Warm Up Exercises (what, how, why):
    • 1 lap walking
      • With L, SW thigh hold
      • Get settled on horse, let horse’s movement relax muscles
    • Halt and walk on 2x
      • With L, SW thigh hold, using voice and legs, sit up tall
      • Start working posture muscles and upper extremities
    • Halt, touch mane 6 inches up, attempt both hands
      • Hold grab strap with one hand, stretch with other hand
      • Work on upper extremity strength and confidence
  • Girth/Posture Check
  • Riding Lesson (what, how, why):
  • Skill: Neck rein steering
    • one hand on rein to steer, sitting tall and turning body and looking direction of turn
    • Control horse, improve upper extremity strength, work toward independent riding
  • Practice: Turn 2x across the arena each direction
    • Use above aids
    • Practice steering aids and balance on short turns
  • Activity: Ride a large circle 3x each direction
    • Steer horse through cones on a circle, using a series of little turns, applying aids when pass cones
    • Progress to more continuous turns, but only when pass cones because they are unable to hold posture the whole time
    • between directions take a lap to rest on straight stretches
  • Conclusion:
    • Cool down 1 lap walking
    • Review lesson
    • Thank yous
  • Dismount Type/Order:
    • Croup to ground to wheelchair

Lesson Eval & Ideas

  • Mounting
    • make sure volunteer has 2 hands on lead rope all the time
  • Tack
    • consider using ladder reins, since the rider is neck reining the ladder reins can more easily be grabbed, and lets them adjust rein length by holding different “rungs” of the ladder
  • Skill
    • good use of leg aids to get her to control the horse, is something she can do well
  • Activity
    • great constant communication with the rider and team
    • do more changes of directions instead of staying on one direction for a long time. Better to work both sides for shorter periods of time. Incorporate lots of direction changes.
    • do wider changes of directions (wide serpentines) instead of narrow/shallow ones, to help her build strength
    • do more circles to the right since she leans to the right, to help rebalance her and build strength
  • Other
    • slight concern about head and neck control, suggested contacting the family about talking with her physical therapist to determine how to support neck and how much is appropriate to ask her to sit up straight
    • incorporate more intention work and rest increments, building up to longer work increments
    • work more on straightening and staying in midline
    • consider foam or towel under right buttcheek to help straighten her, now that we use the saddle cover it should stay in place under it

I love that our director evaluates us at least once during the year, it gives me encouragement, new ideas, and points me toward where I can improve!

Hope you find that helpful! Do you have anything to add?


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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