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WANTED: Tall & Buff (Dark & Handsome Optional)

Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding (S.T.A.R.) wants YOU — if you are a draft-type horse in good health who could help carry a veteran in the organization’s therapeutic riding program.

“There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” These wise words have been credited to both Will Rogers and Winston Churchill. Regardless of who said it first, we who ride certainly agree it is true.

For most of us, riding is an activity we engage in for pleasure. Many of us say, “my horse is my therapist” and we sincerely mean that; however, for some riders, the idea of the horse as therapist is far more significant.

Therapeutic riding has been recognized for decades as an integral component of many rehabilitation programs. A participant in therapeutic riding often gains improved balance and coordination, while enjoying the mental and emotional benefits of riding, as well.

Mounting block with rider hoist. Photo provided by S.T.A.R.

In recent years, United States Veterans have become a unique segment of the therapeutic riding population. These servicemen and servicewomen may return home as amputees, have brain injuries, or other injuries that affect their physical coordination and mental well-being.

Enter the horse.

Therapeutic riding assists these veterans with their healing journey. One therapeutic riding academy, located in East Tennessee, is a shining example of “riding done right” for these veterans as well as their other therapeutic riding clients.

Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding or “S.T.A.R.” has numerous programs and classes to support all types of therapeutic riding needs, including their “heroes for horses” program which is specifically designed to assist veterans.

S.T.A.R.’s “heroes for horses” program, which provides therapeutic riding for United States Veterans. Photo provided by S.T.A.R.

At the present time, however, S.T.A.R. and other therapeutic riding academies across the U.S. have a shortage of suitable horses for their veteran-clients. And here’s why.

It takes a special horse to be a therapeutic animal. Of that select pool of candidates, the number of animals suitable for veterans is even smaller, because the clients themselves are not small. Veterans participating in therapeutic riding are typically men, between 180-250 pounds, so the horse must be large enough to carry that weight without being so oversized the human “guardrails” (known in therapeutic riding parlance as “side walkers”) can be effective safety nets on each side of the rider.

So! To help our veterans and the therapeutic riding academies that are seeking suitable animals, here’s a list of the “Top Ten Characteristics and Requirements of a Veteran’s Ideal Therapeutic Riding Horse!”

The Ideal Therapeutic Riding Horse for Veterans is:

  1. between 16 and 16.3 hands tall
  2. built to carry between 275-300 pounds total weight
  3. between 13 and 18 years of age
  4. of a quiet, calm temperament
  5. well-schooled to carry a rider at a walk and trot/jog
  6. unflappable with such things as a ball being tossed over its head or similar coordination activities while the veteran is mounted
  7. healthy, including joints and without any lameness
  8. has no vices
  9. likes people
  10. donated at zero cost

Flickr/S. Carter/CC

For folks who might know of a suitable candidate, S.T.A.R. has the following policies in place regarding their therapeutic academy horses:

  1. The animal is utilized no more than two hours per day, and these hours must be divided, thus the animal may work one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon, with several hours of rest between sessions. (Being a therapy horse is not a huge physical strain, but it does require a great deal of mental focus from the horse, hence this strict “2-hrs/day” rule)
  2. The animal is utilized no more than six consecutive days before it must be given a 24-hour rest period
  3. The animal is maintained in every way – physically, mentally, and emotionally – in accord with top tier equine health management policies
  4. The animal’s medical care is provided for or overseen by the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine
  5. The animal is given a lifetime home, unless the donor-owner desires to have the animal returned to them once the animal’s years of serviceability as a therapeutic animal have been exhausted

Our “wounded warriors” deserve every opportunity to heal and regain their health, vitality, and confidence. Working together, surely we can locate the horse(s) S.T.A.R. seeks to help them achieve this worthy mission.

Drafts and draft-crosses encouraged to apply.  Contact S.T.A.R. at https://www.rideatstar.org/contact-us.html.

Go riding.

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