In this post I’m going to share my visit to the program Xenophon in Orinda, CA! This is not a comprehensive description of their program, but rather I’ll share the things I found most interesting and inspiring. I met Lindsay, who works at Xenophon, at the PATH Intl Conference in San Diego about 4 years ago (we lunged each other) and this year I finally made it to visit their program while I was in town for the holidays. It’s such a joy to see how other barns do things and to share information! In my blogging dreams I have a monthly “barn tour” post in which I get to visit lots of barns, but in reality that probably won’t happen. However, this is an attempt to get the ball rolling for the new year! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! (Click the pictures to make them bigger).
Barn Tour: Xenophon
Xenophon is a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center, set upon 3 acres of land that they lease from PG&E, with additional pasture across the street. They have 7 horses, around 50 riders, and their programs include therapeutic riding, hippotherapy, veterans, and “equine-assisted workshops for people living with early state dementia or Alzheimer’s and their care partners”.
Xenophon’s stables are simple and sweet. Many of their things (ramps, pens, fencing, sensory trail) have been funding and/or made by Eagle Scouts, Kiwanis, and Lions Clubs.
They have a small indoor arena with this nice simple mounting ramp, enter from the left, exit to the right, then turn left around the end into the arena.
They have a covered indoor arena with another nice mounting ramp, with an overhead beam that supports a lift system. Their lift uses straps and slides over on the metal piece beneath the beam. The riders wait on the deck before mounting. The deck is in front of the office (not shown) which includes a lounge for caregivers, the volunteer sign in and nametags, fridge, kitchen, and little staff office room. It’s simple and sweet and I like how everything’s in one place, which I’ve found contributes to community (as opposed to having your volunteers congregate somewhere away from the office). Before the lesson the horses are ready in the arena, then take turns coming through the gate in the back (by the horse in the second pic), come through the mounting area, get mounted, then go back into the arena through a gate in the other corner (to the right of the support beam in the first pic).
They also have this nifty ramped viewing area for the outdoor arena. It was made by an Eagle Scout, as many of their projects are.
They recently got a roundpen with lovely retaining walls.
The arenas and roundpen all have several sprinklers located around the perimeter for watering is, rigged up by their handy man volunteer. It’s super nifty: a sprinkler head pops out of the black rubber container and rotates to water the area! ***Update: The rubber tops are so the horses won’t eat the sprinklers 🙂
I especially like these arena letters, also made by the handy man volunteer, that hook over the fence on top and have a stabilizing lip on the bottom. They have letter ones and color shapes ones but I bet you could make them double sided. However, as single sided they can be turned around so the blank side shows and is not distracting to the rider instead of taking them off and storing them. ***Update: I have been informed that the blank side is so when horses are turned out in the arena the letters can be flipped around so the horses don’t eat them 🙂
Gotta love the bridle bling 🙂
Xenophon’s current system is simple and mostly by hand, not on the computer. Each horse has a binder with the horse’s information on the cover and inside dividers for: weekly exercise records, weekly lesson records, health records. At the end of the day the volunteer leaders fill the horse’s lesson record info in (pictured below). The weekly exercise record is very similar.
They use whiteboards for communicating. The one below is for horse turnout and work info/records. Their horses are in stalls with daily turnout, so the whiteboard directs volunteers what to do with what horse, so they are not constantly asking staff. They also record the horse’s usage in the chart – if they’re turnout out, ridden, hand walked, trail ridden, lunged, or lunged with side reins. I think the equine manager then records this on paper, if I remember right.
Check out this beautiful color coordinated Tack Fit list a volunteer created for them! It lists each horse and which saddles and surcingles fit them and with which pads.
Inside the lounge they have a wall with pictures of their current horses, and this wall pictured below with all their past and retired horses. I love the “Xenophon” photo series at the top (click the pic to zoom in!) – a local photographer gave it to them after taking pictures of items at their barn that spells out their name, including one of their horse’s blazes that looks like a “P”!
Half of their horses are owned by Xenophon and half of them are leased. Of the ones owned, some were donated and some were purchased with funds from clubs and donors.
They do have a small exercise rider program. Their horses are ridden by staff or by volunteers who can ride first level dressage, and get exercised about 3 times a week (which is more often than most programs I’ve heard of so far, but remember their horses are in stalls much of the day with rotating turnout, so it’s much needed). It sounds like the horses get excellent exercise and care and they have very few behavior problems, if any.
Volunteer management is also simple and by hand – they sign into a binder when they arrive as “in” and when they leave as “out”. That way they can tell who is at the barn, in the case of an emergency and the need to do a head count. Volunteers all have name tags in the lounge.
Xenophon does use Salesforce but I think mostly for donor use.
Their volunteer go through different levels:
- Long liner (for hippotherapy)
Sidewalkers must volunteer for 45-50 hours before they can become a groom. Groom gets one on one training and put in hours before becoming leaders. I really like this lineup as I haven’t seen the in-between designation of “groom” before and think it’s a great idea to bridge the transition between sidewalker and leader!
Xenophon does therapeutic riding and hippotherapy in the afternoons. In order to fill the gap in the morning but not wear their horses out, they started up an adult unmounted activity for adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s called “Connected Horse” which sounds really neat!
Their therapeutic riding lessons are 30 minutes long and pretty much all riding with little grooming. They have a 15 minute break between lessons. I didn’t get to see an example of their daily lesson schedule since they didn’t have programs going at the moment, so I have no pic of that for you!
Progress notes are written by instructors by hand. I also have no pic of that, as baby got fussy and I needed to get him in the car for his nap.
The highlight of my trip was seeing their sensory trail! But that deserves a post to itself, which I will share soon 🙂 Update: Click here to see their sensory trail!
I hope that sparks some ideas for your program!
They did ask me a question I want to open up to you readers: How have you had the best success finding a part time instructor? It seems most barns train up instructors, and people will only move for jobs that are full time salary. Are there any good places to put ads? Or places to find people? I suggested finding people who are already riding instructors to help get certified, as I think it’s easier to teach an instructor how to adapt for disabilities, than teach someone who knows how to work with disabilities how to teach horseback riding. The staff also mentioned there are several programs in the area they have good relationships with and perhaps part timers from other barns would want more work with them. Do you have any suggestions?
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! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!