Welcome to Part 3 of the Record Keeping series! This post is all about assessments for therapeutic and adaptive horseback riding programs. Again, I have so much and yet so little information, this is my best attempt to organize it for you in a way that I hope is helpful. Enjoy!

About Assessments

WHAT Are Assessments

An assessment is a report that documents the client’s current status in relation to their goal, riding skills, abilities, and other factors the program may need in order to re-evaluate goals, track progress, and keep updated records.

WHY Do Assessments

The benefits and purpose of assessments are broadly those listed in my Record Keeping Introduction post. However, to narrow it down, these are the main purposes for assessments:

  • to maintain updated participant information that helps instructors make decisions about their riders/lessons (such as horse, tack, group/private, etc.), that helps instructors easily learn about riders they may take over or substitute teach
  • to help instructors assess rider progress and re-evaluate the rider’s goals and the instructor’s own teaching methods
  • to collect evidence that supports the instructor’s methods, goal choices, and decisions, should the participants/caregivers inquire
  • to collect data for whatever a program needs (marketing, tracking, annual reports, etc.) – and in a way that is easier to pull data from than by using every progress note
  • to help place riders in the correct program in the next session/season/year (if you have multiple programs or class options)

WHEN To Do Assessments

Assessments are typically done a few times a year, depending on the program and when the information is needed for the above purposes. Here are the most common times I have seen assessments done:

  • Annually – usually for assessment information that is needed for annual reports and important physical/doctor updates
  • Bi-Annually (every 6 months) – usually for programs that run year-round with no sessions
  • At the end of every session – usually for programs that run on sessions/quarters/semesters
  • Pre- and Post- Session Assessments – usually for more detailed tracking or programs whose participants change every session

Depending on the information needed, a barn might do a combination of any of the above. Here are some examples:

  • Example 1) A program runs on quarters and does a post-session assessments at the end of every quarter for to assess riding goals and update riding skills info. Annually they do a full rider assessment for updated paperwork, diagnosis status, and physical abilities assessment – this is done in conjunction with the post-session assessment at the end of winter quarter, since many riders come back for the spring.
  • Example 2) A program runs on trimesters and does a pre-session assessment that helps set goals and establish baseline data for tracking riders’ physical/cognition/emotional progress, and does a post-sessions assessment that helps with goal re-evaluation and tracking any improvement/regression on the baseline data. The do a full rider update at the beginning of every year for updated paperwork and diagnosis status.
  • Example 3) A program runs year-round (continuously) without sessions and does an intake assessment when the participant first starts, then reassesses its riders’ goals and skills every spring and fall after that, including in the spring their annual rider paperwork updates.

As you can see, there are many possibilities and it totally depends on how the program runs and the info it needs.

TYPES of Assessments

These are the most common assessments I’ve seen in therapeutic and adaptive riding programs. Sometimes they are done separately, sometimes parts of each are combined into one single assessment. This is how I have chosen to group them, although I’m sure other folks would do it differently:

  • Intake Assessment
  • Goals Assessment
  • Riding Skills Assessment
  • Functional Skills Assessment
  • Other Assessments

Intake Assessment

The intake assessment is the initial evaluation of a possible new participant to:

  • make sure that you can accept the rider into your program, aka that you have the appropriate resources (facilities, instructor, volunteers, horse, and adaptations) to provide them with beneficial services
  • help you make the most beneficial lesson decisions (instructor, volunteers, horse, adaptations, timing, goals, objectives, lesson plans, skills to teach, etc.)
  • set a baseline status of participant abilities and riding skills from which to measure progress

From this intake assessment a program is able to record the rider’s initial riding skills and physical/cognitive/emotional abilities, and create the participant’s initial goals, all against which to compare future assessments in order to measure progress.


For examples and more information, see my two previous posts:

The Intake Assessment

The Intake Assessment II

Goals Assessment

The purpose of Goals Assessments is to re-evaluate the client’s current riding goals and objectives in order to keep them progressing and improving in their riding skills. This includes recording if the goals were met or not and creating new goals as needed, as well as considering if the current goals are still even appropriate and the teaching techniques effective.

I have seen the paperwork for Goals Assessments include:

  • Past Long and Short Term Goals
  • Past Objectives
  • If the above were met (and the date) or not met; some programs include an in-between option of “emerging” and rating the level of performance
  • Parent/Client input on Life and Riding Goals
  • New Long and Short Term Goals
  • New Objectives

Typically, the instructor is already keeping track of the rider’s progress (including when goals are met and future recommendations) in the rider’s weekly progress notes, so that when the they fill out the Goals Assessment sheet at the end of the season it is easy to look back and find the information.

Example 1:

Goals & Objectives

Date of Setting Goals: _______________________ Session: _____________________

Instructor: __________________________________________________________

Goal 1: _________________________________________________________ Date Achieved: ____________

-Objective: _____________________________________________________ Date Achieved: ____________

-Objective: _____________________________________________________ Date Achieved: ____________

Goal 2: _________________________________________________________ Date Achieved: ____________

-Objective: _____________________________________________________ Date Achieved: ____________

-Objective: _____________________________________________________ Date Achieved: ____________

Recommendations for new or future goals: _________________________________________________________________________________________________


Example 2:

End Of Session Goals Evaluation

Student:      ______________________________________ Date: _________________________

Diagnosis:   ______________________________________ Session: _______________________

Previous Goals & Whether Met or in Progress:

Long Term Goal 1: _________________________________________________________________________

Long Term Goal 2: _________________________________________________________________________

Long Term Goal 3: _________________________________________________________________________

Short Term Goal 1: _________________________________________________________________________

Short Term Goal 2: _________________________________________________________________________

Short Term Goal 3: _________________________________________________________________________

Instructor Observations:


Parent Input:

Parent: _______________________________________

Any changes in medications, lifestyle or therapies?


Any notice of progression or regression?


Parent’s goals and reasons:

New Goals:

Long Term Goal 1: _________________________________________________________________________

Long Term Goal 2: _________________________________________________________________________

Long Term Goal 3: _________________________________________________________________________

Short Term Goal 1: _________________________________________________________________________

Short Term Goal 2: _________________________________________________________________________

Short Term Goal 3: _________________________________________________________________________

Instructor signature: ________________________________________ Date:___________________

Example 3: (this is an example of a combination of Goals and Participant Profile)

HorsePower Therapeutic Riding:  (1st, 2nd, etc.) Re-Assessment

Student Name:             Date of Birth:          Age:

Intake Ride:                   Date of Re-Assessment:

Primary Disability:        Secondary Disabilities:

Physician’s Release Needed?    Yes   No

Release of Information Needed?    Yes  No

Student Strengths: (extensive paragraph)

Student Areas of Need:   (extensive paragraph)

Past Short Term Goals: (list all, in bullet points with “met” or “emerging, continue goal” in front)

Past Long Term Goals:  (ditto)

New Short Term Goals: (7 listed in bullet points)

New Long Term Goals:  (4 listed in bullet points)

Special Considerations: (paragraph)

Horse/Tack assignments, Lesson Plan, etc:  (paragraph)

Signed (name, date, qualifications)

Participant Profile / Riding Skills Assessment

This assessment  focuses on evaluating the participant’s current riding skills, disabilities, adaptations, and other considerations related to their lessons. It is used to keep updated rider records, gather information for the instructor to use to re-evaluate the rider’s goals and lesson decisions, and pass on information to other instructors about the participant. The record is updated periodically and usually in conjunction with goal assessments and annual rider paperwork updates (because it’s easier to do all the paperwork at once, and instructors can plan more effectively with all the information being current).

Here is a list of info I have seen included on this paperwork, from various sources, listed all together so you can see some options.

Client Info

  • Name
  • Birthdate
  • Age
  • Date of reassessment
  • Instructor
  • Disability (Primary, Secondary) & type, if your program tracks this (Physical, Cognitive, Social/Emotional)
  • Ambulatory Status
  • Adaptive equipment required
  • Note whether updated Physician’s Release, Photo Release or Information Release are needed or not
  • Purpose for riding
  • Type of goal, if your program tracks this (Physical, Cognitive, Social/Emotional, Horsemanship)

Lesson Info & Recommendations

  • Student Strengths
  • Student Weaknesses or Areas of Need
  • Recommendations for the next instructor
  • Parent’s goals/purpose for riding
  • Horse/Tack Assignment
  • Adapted Equipment Required
  • Special Considerations
  • Recommended Mount/Dismount (method, number of volunteers)
  • Recommended Lesson Plan

Riding Assistance Needed

  • A list of assistance needed, usually for each gait
  • May want to include the date accomplished
  • May be a simple blank space to write
  • May be given options to circle
    • Ex) Circle the gaits for which the following assistance is needed:
      • Leader and 2 sidewalkers: (walk) (sitting trot) (posting trot) (canter)
      • Leader and 1 sidewalker: (walk) (sitting trot) (posting trot) (canter)
      • Leader only: (walk) (sitting trot) (posting trot) (canter)
      • Sidewalker only: (walk) (sitting trot) (posting trot) (canter)
      • Independent: (walk) (sitting trot) (posting trot) (canter)
    • Ex) Circle the assistance needed for the following gaits:
      • Walk: (leader) (sidewalker/s) (spot) (independent)
      • Sitting trot: (leader) (sidewalker/s) (spot) (independent)
      • Posting trot: (leader) (sidewalker/s) (spot) (independent)
      • Canter: (leader) (sidewalker/s) (spot) (independent)
  • May be combined with the following skills information

Participant Skill Progression

  • A list of skills the rider is able to perform
    • May be a blank area to write about the participant’s current riding level
    • May be a simple checklist
    • May be a checklist with a place for the date accomplished
    • May be combined with the above “assistance needed” information by providing a place to record the assistance needed for each gait
      • Ex) For the following skills, write the assistance needed: physical assistance (vest, gait belt, thigh hold, ankle hold, spot, none), verbal assistance (min, mod, max verbal prompts), length of time able to maintain, and other info (needs countdown, specific cues, etc.)
      • Ex) Walk: needs leader, progresses to spot, watch balance in corners
  • Possible skills to include (if you list them):
    • Ex) Skills listed in the 2018 PATH Intl Standards p.128 example Participant Profile, in a table form with several blank columns for the date and gaits after each:
      • Holds reins
      • Holds handhold
      • Able to control horse
      • Able to halt from the…
      • Able to circle at the…
      • Rides without stirrups
      • Able to maintain the half seat
      • Able to post at the…
      • Knows diagonal or lead
      • Able to steer over cavalletti
      • Able to jump a crossbar
    • Ex) Skills listed in the End Of Session assessment form from a barn I worked at, with a blank to fill in yes/no or the amount of assistance needed:
      • Groom & Tack
      • Lead Horse
      • Mount/Dismount
      • Posture/Balance
      • Halt
      • Walk
      • Steering
      • Two Point & distance
      • Sitting Trot & distance
      • Posting Trot & distance
      • Canter & distance
      • Transitions
      • Uses Voice Aids?
      • Uses Rein Aids?
      • Uses Leg Aids?
      • Uses Seat Aids?

Example 1:

PATH Intl.’s Participant Profile from the Standards’ Appendix

Name:                                  Date:


Ambulatory Status:

Adaptive Equipment Required:


Helpers required: [for each, indicate the gait (walk) (sitting trot) (posting trot) (canter) and date achieved – there are several spots for additional updates]

  • Leader and 2 sidewalkers:
  • Leader and 1 sidewalker:
  • Leader only:
  • Sidewalker only:
  • Independent:

Riding position (describe):

Participant Skills [for each, indicate the gait (walk) (sitting trot) (posting trot) (canter) and date achieved – there are several spots for additional updates]:

  • Holds reins
  • Holds handhold
  • Able to control horse
  • Able to halt from the…
  • Able to circle at the…
  • Rides without stirrups
  • Able to maintain the half seat
  • Able to post at the…
  • Knows diagonal or lead
  • Able to steer over cavalletti
  • Able to jump a crossbar

Participant can walk ________ sitting trot  ________ posting trot  ________ canter ________

Horse recommendations:

(Write any additional comments on the reverse side)

Example 2:

End Of Session Skills Update

Date: _________________________

Instructor: ______________________

Session: ________________________

Skills: (after each, list the assistance needed: physical (vest, gait belt, thigh hold, ankle hold, spot, none), verbal (min, mod, max verbal prompts), other help (needs countdown etc.), and anything else of note)

  • Groom & Tack
  • Lead Horse
  • Mount/Dismount
  • Posture/Balance
  • Halt
  • Walk
  • Steering
  • Two Point & distance
  • Sitting Trot & distance
  • Posting Trot & distance
  • Canter & distance
  • Transitions
  • Uses Voice Aids?
  • Uses Rein Aids?
  • Uses Leg Aids?
  • Uses Seat Aids?
  • Strengths:
  • Weaknesses:
  • Recommendations for the next instructor:
  • Additional comments:

Functional Skills Assessments

A functional skills assessment is the assessment of a participant’s physical, cognitive, and social/emotional status. It is like an Intake Assessment that is continued to be given periodically in order to:

  • to gather information for the instructor to use to re-evaluate the participant’s goals and lesson decisions (in which case it is included in the Skills Assessment or Participant Profile Update).
  • to continue assessing riders after you accept them into the program to discover changes in the client’s abilities that might not be observed in the riding lessons and to determine if they are still eligible to participate (such as those with degenerative conditions).
  • to gather data to use in tracking rider progress for instructor use and for program and marketing reports by comparing current and past ability assessments (Ex: 70% of clients showed an improvement in ambulation), or when certain funding sources require more evidence of the benefits of your program.

The functional skills assessed are similar to those you evaluate in the intake assessment. Here are some examples:

  • Physical
    • Ambulation
    • Fine Motor Control
    • Gross Motor Control
    • General Coordination
    • Hand/Eye Coordination
    • Upper Extremity Strength
    • Lower Extremity Strength
    • Cardio Endurance
    • Standing Balance
    • Seated Balance
    • Righting Reaction
    • Posture/Alignment
    • Trunk Control
  • Cognitive
    • Expressive communication skills
    • Receptive communication skills
    • Ability to follow directions
    • Focus & Concentration
    • Long term memory
    • Short term memory
    • Problem solving
    • Task sequencing
    • Reading skills
    • Decision making ability
  • Social/Emotional
    • Initiation of conversation
    • Initiation of social interactions
    • Participation in activities
    • Cooperation
    • Communication during conflict
    • Emotional control
    • Appropriate emotional expression
    • Mood quality

Functional skills can be assessed using specific activities that target the different skills. It is best to work with an OT/PT/Rec Therapist to design an appropriate assessment. You can use the same activities every re-assessment so you can track progress or notice regression. For a full example of these activities, see the post The Intake Assessment II or the example sheet below. Here are some quick examples:

  • Walk the participant around the barn – to asses ambulation over different surfaces, attending, focus, receptive language, direction following
  • Have the participant walk, balance on 1 foot jump, walk up/down stairs, lift a bucket – to assess ambulation, balance, coordination, strength, endurance
  • Have the participant play with toys, ask them to hold objects, pass objects, reach across midline – to assess strength, hand/eye coordination, attention, concentration, focus, cooperation, fine motor skills

The most common ways of recording the results of functional assessments that I have seen has been on a scale, such as 1-5 (for tracking data), or in written notes form (for planning use).

  • Ex) Assess the quality of the following functional skills on a scale of 1-5, 1 being “poor” and 5 being “excellent”:
    • Hand Eye Coordination: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
  • Ex) Record notes below:
    • Request the participant use one hand to grasp a requested object from a bin of various items, reach across midline and deposit the item in a bucket (hand eye coordination, receptive language, attending, concentrating): __________________________________________

Some options for how often to do functional assessments:

  • Once a year, to reassess goals and participant eligibility.
  • At the beginning and end of every session, to help plan goals.
  • At the beginning and end of every session, to track participant progress in functional skills for reporting purposes
  • Never, there are many barns that do not do functional assessments


Focusing on physical/cognitive/emotional/social skills strays from the fact that EAAT instructors are horseback riding instructors teaching participants riding skills, not therapists working to improve functional skills. So do not assess beyond your scope of practice as an adaptive/therapeutic riding instructor. It is best to do these assessments in conjunction with a Physical or Occupational Therapist.

However, “therapeutic riding” often uses riding skills and the “natural therapeutic benefits of the horse” to achieve the rider’s life goals and contribute positively to their physical/cognitive/emotional/social well-being, so some barns and some funding sources want a way to measure that benefit, and functional assessments are one way to do that. For example, one barn I worked at had an ongoing grant that wanted to see a more “scientific” method of tracking client progress. So the program created a functional abilities assessment based on a common functional assessment method used in therapeutic recreation, the “FACTR-R”.

Understand that assessing functional abilities for data tracking and reporting program benefits is VERY hard to do objectively. It is hard to find an assessment that is scientific and objective, and it is hard to have consistency in reporting between program staff. Therefore the data you derive from these assessments can easily be skewed and misreported – and even if it’s not skewed, it may not be a good demonstration of the benefits of your program. For example, if you have riders whose conditions are degenerative, their functional abilities are going to worsen not improve, regardless. If you are trying to find a way to measure and market the success of your program, it’s probably best to stick to reporting data on riding goals met and direct quotes from parents/caregivers about the riders’ personal benefits – unless you are positive you can record and report functional abilities assessments accurately.

Lastly, functional assessments for internal purposes can be very useful for continuing to assess participant eligibility in your program. It can be a clear way to show participants why you make certain decisions – for example, if they are unable to walk up stairs then you decide to use the lift to help them on the horse, and for another example, if you decide you need to refuse someone from participating in the program because your program is unable to safely provide service to them.

Example 1

Functional assessment notes sheet – this is a very basic sheet for NOTE TAKING that I made for intake lessons. It’s nothing formal, it just shows how certain activities can be used to assess certain functional abilities.

Example 2

This thesis paper Rider assessment in therapeutic horse riding by Deborah Jayne Prattley discusses the use of Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) with four coaches of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) services in New Zealand in order to assess “goal achievement for outcomes relating to physical functioning of riders.” It received positive feedback for ease of evaluation and increased focus, although writing GAS goals was challenging and time-consuming.

(I wish I had some good examples, do you have any to share?!)

Other Assessments

Other EAAT Programs Assessment

Just a quick note that the assessments I’ve been talking about are specifically for adaptive and therapeutic riding programs. Other types of programs, such as Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL), Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EFP), and Physical Therapy (PT)/Occupational Therapy (OT)/Speech and Language Pathology (SLP) incorporating hippotherapy will have different types of assessments that are not discussed in this article. Veterans riding programs may have  different assessment processes as well.

Non-disabled and Large Scale Riding Programs

The Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA)’s book The Art of Teaching Riding has some good examples of skills assessments for large scale horseback riding programs for people without disabilities, that are used to track student progress and to make sure students are in the right class for their skill level. I want to share these “Types of Performance Evaluations” here as well since they may be helpful to programs with many able-bodied riders, and to offer some background to assessments in general. Examples of the following are in the appendix of the above mentioned book.

  • Individual Progress Notes – “progressive note-taking” in which the instructor writes down brief evaluations after every or every few lessons about the skills taught and progress made. This method puts the least amount of pressure on students out of those listed here because it’s based on observation and not testing.
  • Individual Progress Evaluations – like progress notes but briefer, such as a single sheet per student with a list of riding skills that are checked off and dated as they are acquired.
  • Individual Performance Evaluations – the rider is tested on the skill/s during their lesson and the evaluation is based on that one performance. This can take a lot of time to do for all clients and can put a lot of pressure on the rider.
  • Group Performance Evaluations – a group of riders are testing on the skill/s at the same time such as during a group lesson and the evalution is based on the one performance. This can feel less threatening to the students than the Individual Performance Eval because they’re in a group. The instructor may use one sheet with a list of skills and places for riders’ names, then check whether the skill was performed or not.
  • Performance Tests – similar to the above evaluations but instead of being tested on one skill the rider is asked to perform a whole riding test, such as the CHA or dressage levels tests. This process is more involved because the riders must learn the test first, practice, and even memorize it.

A Note On Testing And EAAT:

Most of the above models are based on the formal testing of riding and horsemanship skills. Keep in mind that testing can make students nervous, cause a sense of failure, cause rivalry, and take a lot of time to prep, test, and review. However, these methods can be helpful and more efficient for programs with formal riding levels, large group lessons, large camp groups, and in preparing students for competition. So I mention them in case your barn has these types of riders, and needs to expedite their progress notes.

However, adaptive and therapeutic riding lessons are different enough from general riding lessons so that the above testing methods don’t work as well. Differences include: riders’ goals are more specific, some programs include physical/cognitive/emotional goals, progression is more incremental than skill to skill, instructors need more information for making lesson decisions such as the rider’s physical and cognitive status, and riders may not be able to take performance tests in the ways described above. Therefore, from what I’ve seen, adaptive and therapeutic riding programs tend to use assessment methods based on observation, progressive note taking, and using riders’ own specific goals, rather than direct formal testing based on general skills levels.

HOW To Do Assessments

How you do an assessment depends on the assessment itself, but here are some parts of the process to consider:

1) Collect Information

Some programs have a specific protocol for doing each of the following, usually at a specific time of year and on specific paperwork. Other programs may not be so formal and you will have to determine if and how you incorporate the following on your own. These are options for what to include.

  • Collect Important Paperwork
    • Annual Updated Personal Information & Health History
    • Annual Updated Physician’s Statement
    • Parent/Caregiver Goals Sheet and/or Interview
    • Any other paperwork your program has to facilitate the assessment process
  • Observation
    • by watching your riders you naturally come to know much of the information you draw on when doing assessments
    • when watching your riders, do so intentionally looking for the things you will be assessing in the future – such as their goals, riding skills, adaptations, considerations, etc.
  • Refer to Progress Notes
    • instructors should already be tracking data such as goals met and skills demonstrated in their progress notes, so it is easy to pull this information when it is needed
  • In Person Assessment
    • informal assessment – this can be as simple as asking the participant to do a few specific tasks or riding skills during their usual lesson (if more specific information is needed about the rider than observation or progress notes can provide)
    • formal assessments – this can be as complex as having a formal evaluation such as a functional skills assessment with a therapist or a riding skills test by riding a dressage test (if your program includes these assessments in their program)
  • Include the Client’s Input
    • informal discussion – you could talk with the rider during their lesson about their progression and goals
    • formal interview – you could talk with the rider after class about their progression and goals. You could ask them to give a brief statement about how they feel they have been progressing and include a “Client Statement” section on the assessment paperwork.
  • Include the Caregiver’s Input
    • regularly talking in person with the rider’s parent or caregiver about their progress and goals is important and valuable because you are able to gain insight into your rider, connect their riding lessons to home life,  and the caregiver feels that you are invested and interested in their child.
    • You could do this at the beginning of the session for reference when making the rider’s goals for the session
    • You could do this at the end of the session as a check-in with the caregiver and for an end-of-session assessment.
    • Possible questions to ask:
      • how is the rider progressing?
      • what benefits do they see?
      • what concerns do they have?
      • what life goals do they have – the same or any new ones?
      • any new medications or life changes?
      • anything else the instructor should be aware of?
    • How to get the caregiver’s input:
      • informal discussion – you could talk with the caregiver after the rider’s lesson (perhaps while the volunteers help the rider give the horses treats)
      • formal interview – you could interview the caregiver in person after the rider’s lesson using a questionnaire based on the above questions
      • handout – give the caregivers a questionnaire to fill out and return to you based on the above questions, they can work on it during their rider’s lesson or take it home and bring it back to you.
      • phone call – call the parents and ask them the above questions on the phone, perhaps documenting it in a formal questionnaire.
        • Note: one barn I worked at did this and I LOVED it because I got to connect with the parent outside of the barn, they seemed to have more time to think about the questions than when they’re at the barn between activities, they perhaps had the opportunity to be more open without their kid underfoot, they explained in more detail than when filling out a questionnaire by hand, and I felt they appreciated the fact that I took the time out of my day to personally check in with them.
  • Include Therapist Input
    • Getting therapist input on your riders is important and valuable because you are able to gain more insight into the participant’s disabilities so that you can best support them while they ride, plan their goals and lessons to be even more beneficial, and complement the rider’s other therapies.
    • The following are some options for getting therapist input. If you do not have an OT/PT on staff, are not in communication with riders’ therapists, or your riders don’t have a therapist, there are also some ideas I got from Esther Schlegel via her Instructor Hangout “Adaptive Riding Assessments” for her Adaptive (Therapeutic) Riding Instructors Facebook group.
    • Have a Therapist on Staff – Ideally you would have an OT or PT on staff to actually do the assessment with and work together with to plan the best strategies and lessons for the rider.
    • Talk with your Riders’ Therapists – Communicate with the participant’s personal therapists to get their input and if there is anything in particular you can do to complement what they themselves are working on with the participant.
    • Visitation – Invite your riders’ own therapists and/or the local therapists to visit their clients at a lesson to observe them and connect with the instructor. Make sure to include time to sit down and talk with them after. Esther suggests that you “ask the therapist if they are able to do these visits as part of the prescription. … In some cases individuals might work with a therapist without a prescription, but usually they work together because a doctor prescribed the treatment. Some prescriptions limit the therapist on the location. You might only be able to work at the school or in your practice rooms or in the patients house. But especially for OT’s most prescriptions offer the opportunity to assess the patient in different settings to plan goals that are relevant for their every day life. If you have a rider, who already receives OT or PT you can ask the therapist if they would be able to assess the rider at your program. It would usually not be a regular visit. More likely would it be once or twice.”
    • Hold a Clinic – Esther Schlegel is offering a clinic about rider assessments and reassessments in which the program can invite OTs and PTs from the area to attend, in order to connect everyone and show therapists who are not familiar with adaptive riding what all is involved and how they can support their clients’ participation in it. Since Esther is both an instructor and an OT, she says, “I am usually the “middle piece” on these connections, as I know both sides. The clinic I mentioned earlier would be a great way for centers and local therapists to start their work relationship together. If that’s not a possibility I’m also happy to consult both parties through conference calls and emails.” (Note this clinic is starting next summer, 2020).
    • Hold an Event – If you cannot hold a clinic with a qualified professional, I think your program could plan a similar event themselves in which your program invites your riders’ therapists and/or local therapists for a short presentation and connection time with your instructors, perhaps including time to watch a few lessons. Another idea is you could designate a specific day or week for an “open house” when therapists can visit at any time (preferably when their client rides) and a specific staff person facilitates their visit.

2) Record Information

Use the collected information to fill out the assessment sheets that your program uses. Use the same tips listed on the Progress Notes post (see the post for more detail about each) – but here’s a quick reminder:

  • Emphasize the participant’s goals.
  • Use simple descriptive words.
  • Be objective.
  • Be accurate.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Be informative.
  • Be positive.
  • Be professional.

3) Evaluate Information

Don’t forget this, it’s the whole point!

First, follow up on any concerns you may have, such as changes in medical condition or medication.

Then, evaluate the information for your purposes. Good assessment paperwork will guide you through this, such as including a place for results, recommendations for the future, concerns, etc.

The purposes for assessments are listed at the beginning of this post, but for a quick concluding review, here are some ways you can evaluate the assessment information:

  • determine whether your center has the resources to continue serving the individual right now (the right instructor, volunteers, horse, environment, etc.)
  • discover any precautions and considerations for the participant to ride
  • make lesson decisions such as activity type, individual or group lessons, horse, tack and equipment, type of mount/dismount, types of goals, etc.
  • create new goals
  • plan your teaching strategies
  • compare to past assessments to track progress and notice concerns
  • pull data for program reporting

WHO Writes Assessments

Here are some options for who write the assessments:

  • Instructor – In all programs I’ve seen, the instructor does their own riders’ assessments. It makes sense that the same person who teaches the rider is in charge of their goals and paperwork.
  • Therapists – If you have an OT or PT on staff, they can do the assessments, preferably with the instructor, and they can work together to create the goals, lesson plans, and teaching techniques that will be most beneficial to the rider.
  • Qualified Individuals – If you have a large program, you may have trained qualified individuals perform the assessments in order to expedite the process and, in particular if you are tracking specific skills and abilities, having the same one person assess all the riders may ensure consistency in the results.
  • University Students – I have seen programs partner with the local university rec therapy school and have the students learn to give assessments and track progress by giving the functional abilities assessments for a riding program throughout the year. This takes the work off your instructors, but may cause less consistency between results because so many different people are giving the assessment.

I’m sure there are other ways it’s been done, but that’s all my experience. Please comment below if you have something to share!

HOW to Format the Assessments

The options for formatting the actual assessment sheet are the same as listed on the Progress Notes post. It greatly depends on the assessment itself and how the program will be using the assessment. Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • If you have a small program in which the instructors are able to communicate easily and often, you may not need to include as much on your assessments for the purpose passing on information such as the rider’s riding skills, because that is not where the instructors look for that information.
  • If you have a large program in which instructors are often switched every session and it is harder for them to communicate, you may need to include more detailed info on your assessments, because the program is large enough that instructors do use the rider files for information because they have few opportunities to talk the other instructors.
  • If your instructors have many assessments to fill out, the simpler the paperwork the better, so include many check boxes or circles or drop-down choices or other days to expedite the process.
  • Combine documents – if you have a lot of paperwork you are doing at one time (Goals Assessments, Skills Assessments, Caregiver Questionnaire, etc.), consider putting them all in the same document or on the same page. This can expedite the process, save paper, and help the instructor by having all the info in one place.

I’m sure there’s more to consider regarding formatting, but that’s all I had noted down. Share in the comments if you have more to add!


That’s all I know! I am sure there’s so much more info out there and would love to know how other programs do their assessments. Please leave a comment below to contribute!



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!


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