Sidewalker Holds

Is it really October already? Summer flew by and now we’re getting in to the busiest time of the year! I love Fall so I am excited for the change in season and cooler weather. Before I dive in to today’s post, a little programming note: new posts will be coming out every OTHER Thursday until at least the end of the year.

If there is a topic you are interested in, want to learn more about, or have suggestions on please reach out! Email me or comment and I will do my best to put together a post. On to today….

Sidewalkers are one of the most important volunteers in a therapeutic riding program. Sidewalkers are the instructor’s eyes and ears during the lesson and keep clients safe on and around the horse. Sidewalkers are physical and emotional support for clients and clients often look forward to seeing “their” sidewalkers every lesson.

There are four common holds that sidewalkers are trained in at all PATH, Intl. Accredited centers.

Thigh Hold: This is the basic hold for clients. Sidewalkers place the forearm of the arm closest to the horse across a rider’s thigh with a small amount of pressure. This is a very secure hold used for, among others, anxious riders, beginner riders, and/or unbalanced riders.

Ankle Hold: Sidewalkers “cup” the ankle of the rider. Placement is important with this hold because too high (above the ankle bones) does not provide support and too low (on the heel) risks pulling off the rider’s shoes or boots on accident. I tell sidewalkers to cup their hand just below the ankle bones with their fingers closer to the horse and thumb on the outside. This hold is used for riders who do not need help balancing but still need support. Ankle holds help keep busy feet away from the horse’s side and keep the sidewalker in the proper position.

Pant/Cuff Hold: This hold is used for support only. It involves the sidewalker gently holding the bottom of the pant leg or the cuff of the pant. This hold is more often used as an emotional support for riders or for riders who need a sidewalker close but do not need help with balance. This may be a rider who has a tendency to bail (get off the horse without warning) or a rider who needs verbal support.

Double Hold: The double hold is the most secure hold used to fully support the rider’s balance on the horse. It is a combination of the thigh and ankle hold. Sidewalkers place their arm closest to the horse in a thigh hold, cross their opposite hand in front of them and do an ankle hold.

Emotional Support: This is not a hold but requires a sidewalker to be nearby. The sidewalker is offering emotional support to the rider. The rider may not feel ready to be completely independent but does not need any physical support.

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