What makes a good therapy horse?
Calmly accepts new people and stressful environments
First of all, therapy horses must enjoy being around people, and having people around them — all the way around! Since many riders require a leader, 2 sidewalkers and an assistant or instructor very close by, these horses must quietly accept being a bit crowded.
Reacts well to sudden/unusual movements by the rider due to lack of strength/balance or disability
Exercises and games used with riders produce some unusual movements a horse must become accustomed to, and some riders’ disabilities produce sudden movements of arms or legs and/or trunk movement due to lack of strength and/or balance. Our horses must learn to tolerate these movements and to trust the people around them so they will stay calm when something unexpected happens. They also must stand quietly for mounting and dismounting our riders, which can take much longer than most horses are accustomed to. It takes 6 – 9 months for a horse to become comfortable with all the non-traditional things that are expected of them in a therapeutic riding program.
Quality of movement – Must be able to move freely in a balanced, rhythmic manner in all three gaits (Walking, trot, and canter)
Equally important to a therapeutic riding program is the quality of the horse’s movement. Therapy horses must be able to move freely and in a balanced, rhythmic manner in all three gaits — walk, trot and canter/lope. An even, smooth movement builds strength much more efficiently than movement that is uneven or unbalanced. Poor movement quality may also indicate an injury or weakness that might be made worse by the work expected in a therapeutic riding program. Our horses are exercised regularly to keep them moving freely and responsive to traditional aids — weight, legs, hands/reins and voice. As the pictures here illustrate, we expect them to move well, and they do!
The regular exercise the horses get also provides a good change of pace for them, which is as valuable for horses as it is for people. Turning them out together in a large paddock allows them to socialize and bond in a herd structure that is normal for horses and important for their psychological well-being.
Many of the program horses come to us from loving owners who can no longer ride or compete with the horse, but want to make sure they remain in a healthy, secure environment. Some remain owners or donate them to us.
Are you interested in sponsoring one of our amazing therapeutic riding horses for one year?