Home of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Lebron James. Home of the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. Home of the first American Grand Prix jumping competition. A city of diversity and fun awaited the nine Xenophon instructors that headed off to Cleveland on November 3, 2015 for the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International’s (PATH) conference. While the packed schedule of the conference left little free time to truly explore this unique city, a few quick tours and meals allowed enough time to develop an appreciation for the history and culture of this major seat of Ohio.
PATH’s annual conference is the biggest gathering of individuals involved with equine-assisted activities in the world. Over 600 professionals were in attendance. Two days of the conference were dedicated to workshops, with presentations on the latest research and teaching trends. Topics covered instructional methods, training and retaining volunteers, studies on the impact of different horses’ movement on speech development, how mustangs are being used in veterans programs, fundraising strategies for small and large centers, and many more. During lunches instructors heard from motivational speakers and on Saturday an entire day was spent at a large center in Ohio with practical demonstrations ranging from care of the older horse to driving to saddle fitting.
There was no doubt that the highlight of the week was the Friday night banquet, at which awards were given to honor the professional of the year; volunteer of the year; child, youth, adult and independent adult riders of the year. The speeches given by these award winners were heart wrenching and all werean amazing example of the altruistic spirit of the people in our industry. The awards banquet held special significance for Xenophon this year, as our instructor, Heidi Koch, won the Region 11 professional of the year and was in consideration for the national award. It was a wonderful site to see Heidi presented with a gift and certificate for her regional award.
Our instructors came home with their heads full and their motivation sparked to implement new ideas in our program and share with other instructors not in attendance. A big thank you goes out to the Xenophon board who made it possible for so many of our instructors to attend. All who went sent a shout out to the wonderful staff and volunteers who held down the fort while we were gone.