In an urban area, how do you learn how to take care of horses? In our Horse Hands classes, that’s how!

Horse Hands, the Phoenix Zoo’s equine caregiving program, was developed to help kids and adults understand the care of horses. The Horse Hands program is unique from other horse lessons given in the community, as the program is based on horsemanship and caregiving. The caregiving and animal contact programs of the zoo are essential to its role in connecting people with the living world.Horse Hands at the Phoenix Zoo

This program’s curriculum was developed from the zoo’s mission statement to extend the ways we communicate to our community the need to care for and bond with animals.  What better way to do that than with a horse! This program works to generate empathy on the part of participants, in turn generating caring attitudes and caring actions that benefit the well-being of our community and the natural world.

Experienced equine handlers in small classes take adults and children alike through the steps of meeting a variety of equine breeds, recognizing each animal’s needs, and learning to work with them safely.  Come take your lessons at the new Thunderbirds Charities Equine Facility at The Phoenix Zoo.  Our horse program and facility is one of the few nationally accredited sites in Arizona through the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) and all our instructors are nationally certified through CHA as well.

If you would like to know more about our certification, visit CHA at www.cha-ahse.org.

Mini and Junior Programs:

Mini Horse Hands (ages 3-4, plus a caregiver)

This four-day series is a wonderful opportunity to introduce your little one to our gentle equine.  These hands-on caregiving classes include learning basic needs of a horse, grooming, stable chores, an introduction to riding and more! This is a great time for you and your child to come and have fun with horses while learning safe practices as we do it. This program is designed for children ages 3 to 4 years old. Participants must be accompanied by an adult.  Program is 4 days for one hour each day.

Price:  Members, $68.40 – Non-members, $76.00

Dates, Times and Registration

Junior Horse Hands (ages 5-6, plus a caregiver)

This four-day series is a great introduction to horses.  This program will help you determine if horses are a good fit for your child.  Participants will learn safety around horses, basic breeds and colors, plus different jobs and uses of horses through fun interactive activities.  Kids will also experience the basics of tack and riding.  Participants must be accompanied by an adult.  Program is 4 days for one hour each day.

Price:  Members, $68.40 – Non-members, $76.00

Dates, Times and Registration

Horse Hands Programs:

Each Horse Hands Program is a four-week series. Participants must attend all four sessions to develop riding skills and receive a certificate.  Participants will learn about horsemanship, animal observation, behavior, and bonding.

Price:  Members, $118.80 – Non- members, $132.00

Horse Hands Level 1 (ages 7-14)

This program is designed to develop safe and caring relationships between participants and horses. Participants learn basic caregiving skills such as grooming a horse and cleaning a horse’s stall. They also learn the process of preparing a horse to be ridden, which culminates with their first riding experience.

Dates, Times and Registration

Horse Hands Level 2 (ages 7-14)

This program is for those who have completed Level 1. Caregiving is continued in this level with participants learning about caring for a horse’s hooves and how to bathe a horse. Participants begin to develop riding skills that focus on basic control of a horse.

Dates, Times and Registration

Horse Hands Level 3 (ages 7-14)

Level 3 is available for participants who have completed both Level 1 and Level 2. In this program participants will broaden their horsemanship knowledge by learning different breeds and colors of horses. As riding skills develop further, participants are taken outside the riding arena to test their skills on a trail ride.

Dates, Times and Registration

Horse Hands Level 4 (ages 7-14)

To enroll in this program, participants must have completed Levels 1, 2 and 3. In this program participants learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy horses, common horse health issues and how to maintain a healthy horse through proper care. Each participant is assigned their own horse that they will care for throughout the series. Participants continue to develop their riding skills while being introduced to faster gaits.

Dates, Times and Registration

Horse Hands Level 1 for Adults (ages 15+)

If you have never been on a horse before, or if you are somewhat experienced with horses but would like to learn more about their behavior and caregiving, or just generally brush up on your horsemanship skills, then this program is for you.

Dates, Times and Registration

Horse Hands Riding Series

The primary focus of the Horse Hands Riding Series will be on riding, however, students will be required to know the caregiving aspects of horsemanship.  This program is a progression series in which students will have to test into higher levels.  A mandatory orientation will be required for all students entering into the Beginner class.  Students will enroll in 4 sessions, each session being 1 hour in length.

Price: Members, $108 – Non-members, $120

Registration for any Horse Hands Riding Series must be made by contacting Reservations at 602.914.4333.

Horse Hands Beginner Riding

The Beginner Rider learns to ride independently and with control while maintaining a reasonably secure seat at the walk and trot through simple patterns without a saddle.

Horse Hands Novice 1 Riding

For those who have earned the merit badges and passed the riding test for Horse Hands Riding Beginner level.  The Novice 1 rider fine tunes his or her seat positioning and control of the horse under saddle at the walk and trot.  Students will perform moderately difficult patterns and be introduced to the canter.

Horse Hands Novice 2 Riding

For those who have earned the merit badges and who have passed the riding test for Horse Hands Riding Novice 1 level.  Upon completion, the Novice 2 rider will have a solid seat and will be able to control his or her horse through complex patterns at the walk and trot.  Students will maintain a controlled canter and be able to perform basic movements at that gait.