Tip for working with non-verbal or under-responsive students:

Tip for working with non-verbal or under-responsive students: Don’t leave them out of the plan! Communicate TO your students even if they are assisted by volunteers!


Talk through your STUDENT to your VOLUNTEERS!


Even though your student may not be able to execute all the steps in a plan, understand exactly what is going on, etc. still talk to them and keep them involved. Your student is directly impacted by what is about to happen….give them the respect and courtesy of being included in that plan.

So often I see/hear instructors say a little something to their student like a “good job” or “lets get ready to have some fun”

……then they turn their verbal and non-verbals away from the student and focus on the volunteer (sidewalker or horse lead)

……the instructor then give information about what is going to happen to that student to the volunteer

….without ever including the student in on the plan!

And I’m in no way saying I have never done this.

I’ve been “one of those” instructors before that left the student out of the plan…..BUT I became aware of it and made the choice to change how I interact with my students and you know what?


Communication, even if it feels like a one way street at times, is part of building a relationship and showing your student you respect them and want to engage with them.

You might be surprised what happens when you make this shift!

So HOW do we talk through our STUDENT to the volunteers?

  • Make eye contact with the student (as much as possible)
  • Tell them what is going to happen
    • EXAMPLE: “Sara, we are going to walk through the pattern now. Jenny and Sara are going to have thigh holds on you around the barrels to help you stay balanced but on the straight lines between the barrels they are going to not do a hold. Jim will help steer Kisses through the pattern so you can focus on staying centered and balanced. Lets see what you got girl! Sara’s Team…are you guys all ready?”
  • Make eye contact with your team to check that they understood.

Have you tried this technique? How has it worked for you? Leave a comment below!


Saebra Pipoly
Owner/Founder of Hoof Falls & Footfalls

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