Wilderwood’s program takes 9 months to complete and comprises a curriculum that is taught over three 12-week semesters each year: Spring, Summer, and Fall.
The curriculum itself contains five Tracks. Track 1 and Track 5 are mandatory. Tracks 2, 3, and 4 are electives from which participants choose one. Each Track involves being and learning with horses, both directly (touching, training, riding, caring, communicating) and indirectly (managing aspects of the farm, theorizing about and reflecting on horse/human communication, and observing the horses).
Track 1: Talking with Horses
Track 1 focuses on developing participants’ self-perception and discovery through self-possibility, learning about horse care, safety around horses, and communicating with horses, including the principles of talking with horses and the philosophy of Hautism (the innate connection between horses and autistic people). This Track is mandatory and every participant must complete it in the first semester.
Track 2: In Tandem with Horses
Participants learn about what constitutes horse dancing, the tack, equipment, and location required to perform it, as well as components of haltering, leading, and lungeing techniques, equine and human body language, and basic dancing commands. The course culminates in a short dancing routine to music performed with the horse. Alternatively, participants will learn more about communicating and talking with horses and elect to work with and focus on one horse in particular. An unmounted course, this Track is a good choice for participants who want to work with horses but don’t necessarily want to ride them.
Track 3: Riding and Reflection with Horses
Track 3 involves studying, discussing, and being able to recognize the ways in which horses move and to learn basic principles of riding the horse, including mounting, dismounting, leg and hand aids, seat, and balance, following the principles set forward by Phillipe Karl and his Ecole de Légèreté approach to horse handling and riding. This Track also teaches techniques of reflective communication involving thoughts, feelings, and emotions through interactions with the horse. It culminates in creating and performing a basic riding routine. As a Track that involves both ground and mounted (riding) work, this elective is a good choice for participants who want to ride the horses as well as learn more about them through groundwork.
Track 4: Wellness and Self-Direction with Horses
Track 4 is customized for each participant and varies accordingly. Its components include activities that extend on the preparatory work developed in the previous semester with projects that vary as uniquely as each individual participant who selects this Track. Whatever project a participant selects, it will be created in close coordination with the instructor and will also (whether directly or indirectly) involve and benefit the relationship between horse and human. This Track is a good choice for participants who are ready to assist in the design of their own program component.
Track 5: The Preceptorship
Track 5 involves a one-on-one, individualized and customized culmination in the planning and preparation work that has been accomplished in the previous two semesters. This is the stage of the program where active steps are taken towards realizing each participant’s individual goal or goals that have been under development in the prior six months. Participants will work individually in a custom designed project that is relevant to their career or life goal(s) in cooperation and coordination with a community mentor, instructor, or specialist. Each project will directly or indirectly benefit the relationship between horse and human. This Track is mandatory and every participant must complete it in the third (final) semester of the program.