For the first time in my 25 years of living, I have broken a bone. My right humerus is fractured about 2″ above the elbow. I’m out of commission for at least 6 weeks. For those wondering, I fell off one of the trial horses […]
Month: August 2012
I don’t blog much about my job, even though it’s where I spend the majority of my time and is frequently the reason I don’t have a lot of time to spend riding Moe, Gina, and Colter. I don’t want to get into one of those messy losing-my-job-because-I-blog-about-it situations. And on a day-to-day basis, my job isn’t crazy interesting. But today, I felt compelled to share with you, all twelve of my readers, a little bit more about what I do and why it’s totally, totally great.
I work as the equine manager for a therapeutic riding center. I am in charge of the care of our existing herd of therapeutic horses, the evaluation and selection of new horses, the desensitizing process, and otherwise preparing horses for therapeutic riding lessons. The center at which I work has 19 equines (14 horses, 1 mule, 1 pony, 3 miniature horses) and I am their boss.
|Brutus, 12 year old Haflinger/Belgian gelding.|
Therapeutic horses are a special kind of horse. They can be any breed, but here in Oklahoma, we see a lot of American Quarter Horses because they’re popular for rodeos and ranch work. They can come from any background; most of our horses are ex-ropers, but we also have a former reiner, a hunter, and an ex-police horse. Therapy horses can be any age. While older horses are par for the course because they’ve usually seen everything and been everywhere, our horses range in age from 4 to 30 years old. However, no matter what breed, background, or age, they are all calm, intelligent, and very, very empathetic.
|Roscoe, 16 year old ex-police horse, makes a silly face.|
Every day, the horses are exposed to a plethora of stimuli that would drive most horses nuts. People with special needs aren’t always in control of their bodies, so the horses must cope with riders who pull their manes, pat their necks too hard, yell or cry loudly, bounce on their backs, squeeze their sides, or lay on their necks. They must unfazed by brightly colored rings and poles, balls bouncing off their heads or sides or rolling under their legs, music playing, and squeaky toys. They must tolerate a person leading them and two people walking at their barrel. They must be responsive enough to stop quickly in case of an emergency, but quiet enough to stay calm if something happens.
|At age 28, ex-roper Wolfman shows no sign of slowing down.|
I have seen horses stand calmly while their rider had a seizure and was dismounted by volunteers. I have seen a horse just keep walking while his rider bounced a ball off his poll. I have seen horses slow to a stop when their rider leaned too far forward and give them time to adjust. I have seen a horse put his head in his rider’s lap, just asking for a hug and not noticing her wheelchair.
|Twenty-six year old former reiner Eddie gets a good roll.|
All of our horses come from loving owners who, in most cases, simply wanted a place for their horse to go where it would be well-cared for and useful. For some owners, the cost of keeping an older horse was becoming prohibitive, but they didn’t want to send the horse to a sale and worry about where it would end up. Some owners had a horse who had sustained injuries that made it unsuitable for what they did. Some people wanted to find a home for their older horse that perhaps wouldn’t be comfortable actively competing, but would be bored and miserable turned out in a pasture all the time.
|Cherokee, a 20 year old Pinto trail horse.|
|Poncho (bay Mustang) & Speck (red roan QH) race in the
pasture. Speck is a former AQHA & NSBA champion.
|Fannie gets a good belly scratch on her round bale.|
|Red, a 30 year old mule, was a champion jumper.|
It’s Saturday, and I’m off to see the Governor’s Cup race at Remington Park in Oklahoma City with my friend (and Thoroughbred expert/aspiring dressage rider) Holly. Of course, you can’t go to a horse race without looking good (unless you’re going to Will Rogers Downs […]