Building an Empathetic Lesson Program with Brittney Chambers

When Brittney Chambers started the CBC Therapeutic Riding Academy in Elk Grove, California, the goal was clear: help as many riders as possible experience the mental and physical benefits of horseback riding. Between her father, Glenn, and herself, the pair have over 70 years of experience working with horses and riders from all backgrounds. It’s this shared mission coupled with a thoughtful approach to creating the program that make the CBC Academy a place where both horse and rider can thrive. 

Dedicated to providing a safe learning environment for students, Brittney set her sights on selecting the right horses for her lesson program. Building a lesson horse string can be challenging, and there are many factors to consider.

“You want to make sure that you find horses, that will help your students succeed, and keep them safe,” Brittney explained.  “Once you evaluate where your students are in their riding levels, and what their needs are, then you can find the right lesson horse for your program.”

“Now remember,” she continued. “As time goes on, the needs of your students will change. A beginner rider cannot stay on a beginner horse forever. They will eventually need an intermediate horse, to bring them up to the next level.”

The process can take some time, but finding suitable horses is something that sets the foundation for a lesson program. This should not be shirked.

What about introducing a new lesson horse into a program? In many cases, trainers don’t want to just throw a student up on an unknown horse. Brittney takes a thoughtful approach to integrating a new horse into her program, and she’s begun using Hylofit to measure each horse’s heart rate before, during, and after work in order to gauge how they are settling in.

The videos in the post below show Brittney working with a new lesson horse, Maverick. Brittney spends time with each horse in her program before they take on students, ensuring that they know their job and their arena well.

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Lesson horse Prep.-Schooling ride 1, and schooling ride 3. • • • We found a steady pace, and stayed on the rail with a loose rein. • • • By him doing this, it won’t be as intimidating to a rider to be able to focus on their riding and control the horse as well. • • • Now if you ask him, he will get up and go, but the loose rein means autopilot on the rail. Fun fact: we used our @hylofit on both rides. On the first ride, he hit zone 3 with his heart rate. He had some anxiety while being ridden. The third ride he only hit zone 1. It was very clear he was less anxious by his third ride. #naturalhorsemanship #ride #saddle #stirrups #Equine #trainer #horsetrainer #horsetraining #walk #trot #canter #lesson #lessons #horsebackriding #Sacramento #California #horsetrainingvideos #horsemanship #ridinghorses #Equinelanguage #OTTB #English #Western #Equestrain

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Using Hylofit’s wireless heart monitor for horses and riders, Brittney was able to see that Maverick’s heart rate was higher on her first ride, dropping lower in each subsequent ride. As Maverick settled into his routine, his heart rate data showed more relaxation. 

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Why does this matter? For lesson horses, being safe and steady is the primary aspect of the job. A horse that is outwardly stoic but perhaps is experiencing internalized anxiety may have a stronger reaction to stimulus further down the road. Or a horse that has internalized unease may experience more body tightness, soreness, and potential for lameness.

A horse that is trusted with lesson and therapy students must be comfortable in its job. This is a responsibility Brittney does not take lightly, and she says she’s thrilled to have Hylofit as a new part of her program. Having data to back up her instinct and confirm whether or not a horse is feeling comfortable and confident has made her feel more in touch with each horse. 

Teaching her students how to read and interpret heart rate is becoming a focus for Brittney too. She’s in the midst of putting up a “Hylofit Wall” in her barn, consisting of a tracking chart that will keep track of each horse’s resting heart rate. Students will take measurements using the Hylofit and make observations over time on heart rate patterns for each horse in the program.

Monitoring heart rate is important for more than only the Olympic athletes and the 100 mile riders. Heart rate truly gives us another tool with which to strengthen our relationship with and understanding of our horses. We look forward to supporting CBC Therapeutic Riding Academy and Brittney Chambers as they incorporate heart rate into their program!

To learn more about CBC Therapeutic Horseback Riding Academy, be sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and on their website

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