It was so great to see my girls so happy and to just feel normal for a few hours. Felt like we were able to just escape life for a bit and relax!! — Jacqueline M.
On June 7, as the Province of Nova Scotia allowed some programs and facilities to open up to clients, Hinchinbrook Farm provided its first two groups of volunteers training on the new protocols and equipment that will be used for therapeutic riding and Ther-A-Playdates.
The training had to be spread over two sessions due to the restriction to each of 10 people at a gathering. Social distancing and masks and face shields were all used as required to meet the new guidelines. Here is an overview of the training sessions.
Arrivals: From now until the relaxing of rules as determined by the Province, all people arriving at Hinchinbrook will have to report to the trampoline paddock before doing anything else. There, they will have their temperature taken with a non-contact thermometer and answer a series of questions similar to the one shown at this link>>. They will sign the questionnaire which will be photographed and kept on file. They will have a wash bucket with hot water and soap ready for them to wash their hands (20 seconds).
The training session began with a review of the rules about masks and how to don them. Clients and volunteers will be asked to bring their own masks and gloves, but there will be spares at the farm in case. Also, Patty has some designer masks (horse motif), made by a grandmother of a client, for sale at $10. Although most volunteers wore masks for the whole training session, everyone also practiced keeping their distance, using two protection methods simultaneously.
Rules about when masks would be mandatory were reviewed. This would apply especially at the zip line, helping hook fishing worms, side-walking and other duties which make keeping a safe distance very difficult. It will be difficult to maintain physical distancing with the children, but we all must try to do it, and that is why masks or face shields will be required at all times. Kids will unexpectedly come too close and we cannot control that. We also want to keep them as natural as possible and suddenly having to back off because you are not wearing face protection will be disruptive.
Face shields are also available and will be needed when grooming, side-walking and leading horses. In some cases, the comfort of the volunteer will dictate what is needed, and in others it will be the reaction of the client. Developing social skills often requires seeing a persons face, smile and comforting looks, which may be difficult with the mask but easier with a face shield.
No one will be provided with snacks or other refreshments until this COVID-19 situation is over. Therefore, everyone needs to remember to bring their own and to take their garbage home with them. Water to refill bottles will be available in the tack room. Only volunteers will be permitted to refill bottles in the tack room. In summer, the refill station might get moved to the porch.
The volunteers were shown the various play areas and new equipment was pointed out, including how each would have to be disinfected after each session. There is the new swing area, which may soon also have a gravel mound to play on. The hammocks will be put through a hot dryer cycle after each time they are used. All swings except the leather saddle will have to be wiped down with disinfectant. It is therefore going to be important for volunteers to record which toys and swings are used so that they can make sure they clean them afterwards with alcohol wipes. The same holds true for any toys or games that are used.
Now that Patty has found insurance once again for the zip line and pond, these two areas are open for activities. The volunteers were shown the zip line protocols and reminded of the importance of safety in this activity. Those planning to be “launchers” or “catchers” have to ask for training before they do this job. Only adults (18+) are permitted too do the two jobs. Teenage volunteers can help get the kids into the harnesses, can return the zip line wheels back to the platform, escort kids to the platform and remove the carabiner from their harness at the end of each ride. The pond is open for fishing; and swimming, weather permitting, will likely start July 1. Standard swimming rules apply. The kids will not be able to wear masks when swimming, but volunteers can still use their mask, since they are not actually “swimming” but supervising.
Once swimming starts, fishing stops! However, on cool days, fishing can resume when we are not in the water for pond play. The two can NEVER be done at the same time.
Grooming, side walking and leading are done exactly the same as before. We are getting the horses used to masks and shields so that either can be worn when working with them.
Since clients and their parents are not allowed into the stable until restrictions are lifted, grooming, saddling, treats, etc. will all take place out front and there will be no indoor sensory work. Until the new roof is installed on the woodland riding ring, rain may result in cancelled lessons since the hayloft is not likely to be open to the clients.
If this all makes you nervous, just concentrate on the picture below — what a peaceful time Dandy and Andy are having doing their second favourite thing!