Back on Track ‘Horse Therapy’: Jolene & Shy

Each week we feature a reader essay about a special horse. Today Jolene Hasseler shares the story of her fiery chestnut mare, Shy: “In the 10-plus years that I’ve owner her she’s tested my patience, taken care of me, and packed little kids around, sometimes all in the same day!”


From Jolene:

I bought “Shy” as a 6-year-old greenie. She’d had six months off due to back issues. The day I tried her she refused to stand and must have spooked 10 times in my 20-minute trial, but she was the best of the of horses I’d tried, and the owners were looking to sell immediately.  She came home with me. I’ve never looked back.

I suffered from health problems and 1-1/2 years after “Shy” came home (and six weeks before my wedding), I needed major abdominal surgery. I didn’t want to be in agony for the wedding and honeymoon, so we decided on drug therapy to keep me upright for the next two months. I rode almost every day until the wedding, not sure of when I would be able to get back on after surgery. The only thing that took my mind off of surgery and intense wedding planning was to go to the barn and spend hours with my mare.

Surgery happened. Doc said no lifting, driving, or strenuous activity. My new husband took me to the barn a few days a week to keep my spirits up. Grooming kept me sane. The day finally came where I was allowed “minimal” activity. Being the horse person that I am, I decided to go for a ride! My horse had not been sat on in two months, it was a 20-degree day in January, and she didn’t stand well to be mounted. I awkwardly climbed  on in a tiny indoor where I figured she couldn’t get too out of hand. “Shy” stood like a rock while I struggled to mount and never put a foot wrong, even when I tried a few steps of trot that hurt so badly it made me nauseous. She came back to the walk without me asking and my normally spooky mare tiptoed along. When it came time to dismount, she stood patiently while I struggled. I dismounted on the mounting block because landing was going to hurt.

Today, “Shy” is my best lesson horse. We still struggle with her back issues, but a new saddle, supplements and therapeutic pads help. Everyone loves her. She packs little kids around and will jump anything you point her at with an advanced rider. That few months where I couldn’t ride helped create a connection that a lot of people don’t have. “Shy” still doesn’t stand well to mount. That miserable cold day in January, though, she stood stock still and helped me retain some sanity, giving me a goal. She’s in my wedding photos, and at 17 years old is still going strong. I hope to have another 17 years with her!

Here at Horse Nation, we believe that the best therapists are our own horses. We love sharing the stories of special equines and the lessons horses have taught us — email yours to [email protected] to be featured in an upcoming edition of Back on Track “Horse Therapy.” Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!


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