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the trait that makes them good therapy horses.


HELPING THE HORSES WHO HEAL OTHERS Just as I was compelled to write stories


of “People and Horses Helping Horses and People,” I now felt compelled to see how I might be able to help the therapy horses. I visited a few more centers and kept a keen eye on each horse’s movement and at itude. What I had earlier suspected seemed to be true. Too oſt en the horses were on the forehand, inverted and weak in the hind end. I even saw horses who protested by nipping the leaders or shaking their heads. From my training and work with Diane Sept, I could easily recognize what was wrong and had thoughts about how to help. T e exercises she had taught me years earlier based on the teachings of Peggy Cum- mings and Linda Tellington-Jones were all that was needed. But understanding how full every day


is at most equine-assisted therapy centers, how would adding extra duties to their day be a benefi t? I called Diane, as I oſt en do for advice, and as luck would have it she was just a week away from presenting a short refresher


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Signs That Your Therapy Horse Is Being Overworked & Misunderstood & Can Use A Little Therapy Of His Own


When therapy horses begin to hurt or are stressed they give signals. These are not


discipline issues. These are stress issues. Some horse’s nature is to simply shut down, to withdraw within themselves. You can


recognize this in their reduced appetite. They may stand with their head in the corner of the stall. You can see it in their eyes and often in their coat. Personality change is often an early indicator that a therapy horse is tired, sore or


overstressed. Therapy work is very demanding mentally for horses. So much goes on around them, and every workday brings new riders who, for the horse, have new demands. It’s not like a horse who gets to settle in and bond with one rider, and they learn from each other. I hear often when I arrive to do a clinic, “This horse just started biting.” Or “He used to stand so quietly, now he just fi dgets; he won’t even stand to saddle.” Believe it or not, I have seen a therapy horse wearing a muzzle because he was biting the leaders! Slowing down or refusing to move forward is an indicator that something hurts. The


nature of some therapeutic riding involves upper body calisthenics while the horse is standing still. This is very hard on a horse’s back and can make it very sore. Crowding the leader and sidewalkers is another sign of stressed-out horses. A lot of


therapy horses begin to carry themselves heavy on the forehand. There are many reasons for this, but it causes them to be out of balance, and it may become diffi cult or even pain- ful for them to walk slowly. Fidgeting or girthy when saddling is also a common sign. Aside from the obvious


that the saddle may not fi t, they may not even have a sore back, but they know what is coming next and are sending a signal they need a break. Therapy For Therapy Horses clinics address all of these and other issues. If a horse is


comfortable, walking in correct posture and released he is happier in his work, and the participants benefi t from better equine-assisted therapy, too.


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