Most horses don’t wear capes, but some do. Some horses can boast of winning prizes, trophies and ribbons. Others can boast of how many lives they have touched and hugs they have given. At StableStrides, our horses share only one thing in common: they’re amazing.
To be a therapy horse, each horse must possess a heart and soul that is equal parts brave, trustworthy and loving. The horse must pass a series of evaluations or tests, to determine how they can perform in a stressful environment or an uncertain situation. Many of these situations are not a part of a horse’ daily life: plastic toys bouncing off their sides, little tambourines and hand bells making music all around them. Big blue tarps, plastic bags and basketballs also play their part. The horses are asked to stand calmly while an instructor climbs, flops and slides onto their backs, sometimes bumping them in the bottom along the way. Later on, that same instructor will stand, kneel and lay on their back. And just at that unexpected moment, the instructor will dramatically fall off into the dust.
You may ask why all this is necessary? Each horse must be fully equipped and prepared to handle a situation that could occur with a client. Some riders may have a seizure on or around the horse. Others may accidentally bump the horse while mounting, or need to take a break by laying down on their horse. Novice equestrians take extra time in learning to groom, put on a halter or pick up hooves. Little hands often drop, fling or throw toys during mounted therapy sessions. Each horse needs the training time to safely learn that these situations are not dangerous to them or frightening, but they are important. During training, the horse learns safety, how to process and cope with fright and who to trust for guidance, usually their leader.
In addition to physical training, a horse learns over time how to be patient with learning and gentle with someone who is afraid. They know to stand quietly while someone hugs them, even without being asked. All of these things make each horse not only special, but a superhero to their clients and instructors.
Stay tuned for stories of our amazing horses and how they have changed lives!