Therapy horses come in all sizes, colors, and breeds. They have a wide variety of histories, ex show horses, trail horses, barrel racers and many other walks of horse history. Many have a first stop along the transition highway at an equine rescue, some needing months, even years, to recover from neglect or abuse suffered and endured at the hands of previous owners. There are those who are bred and raised to be equine assisted therapy horses.
Above and beyond whatever a therapy horse’s history might be, they all have one thing in common, an abundance of empathy – and the willingness to put their own feelings aside in favor of their rider, leader and sidewalker’s safety. It is said about one in fifty horses have the empathy, manners, patience and endurance it takes to be a therapy horse.
Being a therapy horse is hard work. It is demanding physically, and taxing mentally. Therapy horses carry precious cargo and much is expected of them. As they walk along giving healing therapy they must not only be aware of that precious cargo, who may not be able to sit correctly, use their legs, or concentrate, but they must also be careful not to bump the sidewalkers, one on each side. The leader and therapist must also be accounted for with each step. Therapy horses take it all in stride as they offer healing, support and love.
Therapy horses create a magic that helps children deal with Autism, Down Syndrome and other unkind conditions, showing them how to smile, and even laugh, while being carried away to a happy place. They help Veterans conquer the strangle hold of PTSD while holding their reins. Battered women learn to love and trust again simply sitting in a stall with a quiet horse. They help at-risk youths realize they can be masters of their own futures.
The world is a better place because of these wonderful horses who give so much of themselves. The spirit of the therapy horse touches lives, heals hearts and builds smiles on faces. If you have the chance, hug a therapy horse.~ Gitty up, Dutch.