Yesterday, Megan Kaiser gave us the grand tour of the New York therapeutic riding center where she has volunteered. Today she introduces us to the center’s highly skilled therapists, who happen to be horses.
NPR had a story recently about the healing power of animals. There has been an explosion of research on how people benefit from interacting with animals – and that the animals benefit as well. The story envisions a day when instead of being prescribed a medication you would get prescribed some quality time with a dog. How happy would I be if my doc told me: you need to go to the barn a lot more, no excuses, and think about getting another dog. My husband can’t argue with that – now can he?
I know my horse is my therapist (but I also can’t discount the feline and canine that are currently sleeping in the family room – apparently I need three therapists). You don’t have to be responsible for or live with the animals to benefit from them. Just spending some time with them seems to help. And there are certain animals that take to this role. The NPR story talks about a retired Seeing Eye dog that now lives in a special house on a medical campus where families with sick members live. If only more people gave of themselves like that dog.
On my recent visit to the one of the local therapeutic riding centers I met some of their equine therapists and I’d like you to meet them as well.
One of the newer members of the EquiCenter Therapeutic Riding Center’s family is ten year old Norwegian Fjord named Liam. He had a driving background but took to his new job as a therapy horse rather quickly. He is a favorite with the kids due to his cool haircut. His purchase was made possible through a grant from the Ronald McDonald house (so now you can feel less guilty about those fries – they helped purchase Liam). EquiCenter has also gotten grant for the purchase of horses from other organizations, such as the Bob Woodruff foundation.
Sprit was a reluctant dressage horse in his past life. But he is now a willing therapy horse that everyone says loves his new job. I would tend to agree. He was just happy as can be on the crossties, posing for me while I tried to get a good picture with my phone in bad light. The lesson I saw him give centered and focused a boy that was bursting with energy. Sprit just gave you a look that said sweetly said: I got it, no worries, he’s good. And he could not have been better behaved.
Teasel was really was rather neutral until he had gotten his treats. But at the same time his quiet demeanor gave a little girl a great first experience on a horse. Slow and steady, he was very careful with her. He is leased — about half are leased and half are owned by the center.
Halo is a fuzzy little mare is in her late teens (she is a lady and doesn’t care to disclose her real age). She is a Morgan and her half-sister is also at the center.
Hickory is a typical, slightly naughty, Halflinger that has been in the program since I had volunteered (over five years ago). Apparently he is better behaved now but still can give you a bit of good natured trouble. And you can see he has that mischievous pony look in his eye as he is checks you out for treats. There were several names on the feeding chart that I recognized. This is a testament to the good care these guys are given.
There is a set of volunteers whose job is to give them a bit of exercise, give them a mental break, and some TLC. There are very specific workouts to keep them in tip top shape. They also will take them on trail rides to break up the work in the indoor. There are other volunteers that help with the barn chores, side walkers that help with lessons, a group that mows, and others that garden. Something for everyone! You can see by the large collection of name tags it takes a lot of hands to keep this place running. So if you have some free time why not find a therapeutic riding center – give them a hand – your doctor will be proud of you.