miniature horses

Choosing A Therapy Horse

Some of the most frequent questions we are asked are, “Would my horse make a good therapy horse,” and “How do you evaluate a horse for therapy?”. As easy as these questions may sound there is NO easy answer. You may ask yourself, “why is it so hard to answer such simple questions?” The answer will vary for each individual horse and its handler. The experiences and backgrounds of each horse vary greatly, as does the experience of each handler; it isn’t safe or logical to say that there is a set of rules to follow. 


Just like you, I am in love with horses and find it hard to resist a new horse. The personality of any horse away from it’s herd and normalcy is harder to predict, and could easily change when in a new handler’s hands. Good breeders will keep the integrity of the miniature horse breed, have established personality and size consistency. I pick a horse because I like his/her coloration, I also have a list of reputable breeders who I work with who know the personality I look for.



Horse Age

There are pros and cons of choosing a horse of any age for your program. We have brought in horses like Annabelle and had her out doing therapy visits within 2 weeks of being born. Others like Denver came to the farm around age 4 and after a bit of desensitization, he was doing therapy visits after 6 months. You need to find a horse that works with your personality. If you can form a trusting relationship with a horse, age doesn’t matter.

Baby Horses

They are so irresistible! Okay, now that we have that established… A benefit of choosing a younger horse is the small number of handlers they have experienced. You will be their primary trainer and you know a lot of what they have been through. When they are young, babies are typically easier to handle and train. Remember, horses go thru a stage of "terrible twos”. Trust your training, don’t let temporary habits become normal behaviors.

Older Horses

A benefit of choosing an older horse is the maturity level. You can see more of their permanent personality. You are not the only person who has trained this horse, simply put - old habits die hard. A mature horse has history, various handlers and maybe even different disciplines. Do you best to find out how that previous training has influenced their handling and disposition now. Again, trust your training and be consistent.

Bottom line, a horse that is well trained with a tender hand will create a lasting bond.



Mares or Geldings? 

We use mares and geldings equally in our program. I don’t prefer one over the other, and some of my best teams are mare/gelding duos. I do take into consideration who I put into the trailer. Some horses will react differently on a visit depending on who is with them. A lot of my time is spent watching the herd dynamic, who allows who to eat by their side. This determines who I can pair together. We always try to partner horses with their friends or other horses from their micro-herd to make the visit as stress-free as we can.



Termination of Therapy Training

During initial evaluation of a horse for therapy work, two characteristics will immediately disqualify:

  • kicking out of aggression

  • biting out of aggression

This is a sign of how the horse will respond under stress and would require a lot of training to change that response. There is no guarantee the horse will ever improve. It is worth mentioning, out of aggression is a very different response than playfulness or mouthiness. Horses play games with each other by nipping at the others’ front legs. There is a noticeable difference between a horse bite and a playful nip.


Do your homework

  • Ask what type of training the horse has received,

  • Ask for proof of training,

  • Ask for videos of visits if the horse is a “trained therapy horse”,

  • Ask someone who knows horses to accompany your visit with a new horse,

  • Make sure there is a contingency plan if the horse doesn’t work out within reasonable time,

  • Use previous experience with horses, and

  • Use your gut instinct.

You could check off all your “boxes” and find a horse that seems fit for therapy but doesn’t enjoy the work he/she does. That’s okay! Therapy work isn’t for every miniature horse. Our goal is to place the horse in a program it thrives in - and sometimes they’re just beautiful lawn ornaments with excellent ground work waiting for their forever home.


 

Feeling Better

First we would like to thank you for all your support and prayers.

We've began training again, and all are enjoying the spike in weather. Our full-time handlers are here working with the horses and running them through our training exercises. Once our herd is fully recovered and cleared by the our vet we will return to our training visits. 

The girls have been hard at work getting horses back into the routine of halters, grooming, and mock-visits. Training around the farm involves lots of petting, loving and working on loud noises and quick movements.

We're excited to get back into working toward what we love. All the horses have been very receptive and quick to remember what they have learnd. Wendy, Harley, and Jet are all back to being the cutest things we've every seen and enjoy meandering around the farm while we train with other horses. Spirits are getting lifted and we're getting excited for what's to come.

Again, we'd like to thank you for all your thoughts and prayers for our horses. We'll keep you posted with pictures and videos.

On the Mend

I am glad to report that most of the horses are doing well and are almost fully recuperated from their illness. A few are still being treated but will recover nicely as well. This has not been an easy disease to deal with, there is lots of quarantine procedures to follow. We want to protect our horses and we certainly want to contain this to our farm only. We are being very careful to wash all items and disinfect everything we can.

It also means we have voluntarily closed our farm to all visits for the month of January. We hope you understand our over protectiveness but our horses health is very important to us and so is the rest of the equine community. We hope to resume normal visiting hours and have volunteers back on their normal schedules as well.

We certainly appreciate your understanding and all you support for the horses. I am sure within a few weeks all the horses will right back to their old selves, running, playing, and bring joy to so many.

Denver, Duke and Dallas all say thank you for your get well wishes.

Denver, Duke and Dallas all say thank you for your get well wishes.

Thank You!

What an incredible experience, walking in the Tournament of Roses Parade. We are honored to be  forever a part of the history of this wonderful tradition. We are thankful to you our supporters and friends who continued to cheer for us during this whole adventure. We are home now and would like to share with you a few of our favorite moments from the Tournament of Roses Parade.