To apply one’s skills to flourish in a new climate or setting

Checking in with Emily Nathan ‘19

This is an alumni story, but Emily Nathan has been on our radar since before she graduated with her BT in Therapeutic Horsemanship. Therapeutic Horsemanship is one of our newest majors. Emily is among the first cohorts of students to move through the program.

What our students are doing, and where they are going, has always been one of the best ways we have to see how a SUNY Cobleskill education fits into an evolving world.

Plus, it’s nice to play the part of proud parent.

We spoke to Emily last year before she headed to her internship with Central Kentucky Riding for Hope. She is still there, now in a dual-role as a PATH Intl. therapeutic riding instructor and an equine management assistant. She accepted the position last May.

We weren’t necessarily expecting to hear from Emily this spring. Equine-assisted activities and riding instruction are hands-on; it didn’t seem likely in the middle of a pandemic that we’d come across video of Emily delivering a lesson.

That is exactly what we found.

Who said quarantine couldn't be fun and educational at the same time? CKRH has found a way to deliver our services virtually while we wait to reopen again.VC: Jj Jayhawk Sillman

Posted by Central Kentucky Riding for Hope on Thursday, April 23, 2020

In equine assisted activities, participants work to achieve goals. Those goals depend on the individual participant and the type of lesson they are receiving.

Emily explains that those participating in equine-assisted activities are working to achieve several goals; there are always a handful of short-term goals that help develop the skills participants need to meet their long-term goals. Each lesson – be it virtual or in-person – blends a horse component into activities that help develop the skills participants are working to gain over the course of their sessions.

“What you see in the video is us trying to keep those riding goals in mind while working to achieve outcomes specific to a client. In this case, (this client’s) goals are verbal.

We verbalize the name of the brush, how to use it, and where on the horse we are using it. We are able to combine pieces of a traditional ground lesson with what we work on in a regular session.”

Like much of the working world, Central Kentucky Riding for Hope is using Zoom to provide its (real) services virtually. PATH Intl. has been holding webinars for all of its certified instructors to support them and their centers while adapting to meet the current climate. Many certified instructors, including Emily herself, are more inclined to adapt their own styles than to take on entirely new ones.

In this time of virtual lessons and remote therapies, the PATH community is banding together to share ideas. Instructors from around the world are on social media and digital forums and message boards to share what is working and what isn’t in their client interactions. Conversations cover ways to cope, ways to improve, and ways to change. Emily is in on all of them.

“It has been really neat and really reassuring to see how flexible our industry is. We really miss our clients, and they’ve made it quite apparent that they really miss us. But this experience makes it clear how driven and dedicated our community is. We aren’t the type of people to sit back. We are eager to try new things and see how we can help our clients.”

Equine-assisted activities aren’t necessarily new; PATH Intl. celebrated its 50-year anniversary this past fall at the organization’s annual conference and meeting in Denver. But instructors, their clients – and certainly colleges offering programs like Therapeutic Horsemanship – are still learning.

Emily says the ability she and her fellow certified instructors have found to move online is prompting research that could lead to virtual equine-assisted activities becoming a permanent option for accredited centers down the road.

“It has always been ‘bye, see you next week.’ This is an alternative to the same services nobody has looked at before in this way.”

Emily Nathan guides a horse through a “drive through” for friends and clients at Central Kentucky Riding for Hope.

We weren’t going to let Emily go before asking one final question. You can probably figure out what it is by her answers.

“I think back to my time in Cobleskill pretty much every day… I think about how relevant some of the situations that I know my peers have not had the chance to experience have already been in my career. The early childhood education, the equine classes, the things my professors have said to me and thinking about what they might suggest, the chance to become (PATH) certified… it’s all so relevant.

You are always learning when you’re teaching. But I find that a lot of the time that I am teaching I am passing on things that I learned in Cobleskill.”