Horse Therapist Helps Horses have a "Second Foalhood"
Southern Pines, SC
Dr. Emma Lovejoy started in human therapy techniques but, as a lifelong horse owner, applied some of those same techniques to horses with surprising results. She claims to be able to soothe the most high-strung equines using her unique therapy. “Many horses had a stressful foalhood and that can cause difficulties in relaxing or even sleeping. Sleeping problems in horses are far more common than owners suspect”, says Lovejoy. “Horses can, indeed, sleep standing up, but they need to be able to feel safe enough to lie down for a few hours to get much needed REM sleep. They simply won’t if they are too stressed. Here’s where I come in.”
Dr. Lovejoy’s barn is the most unique aspect of her therapy. Each stall is very large, dark and quiet. The bedding is deep straw. In fact, they look like foaling stalls, which is purposely done to simulate the best possible foalhood for a horse. She also has speakers in each stall with recorded sounds of mother horses nickering to their foals. She even has a fake udder that can be lowered or raised, depending on the height of the horse. She says that some of her patients actually nurse while in therapy. The “milk” is actually a nutritious mix of supplements and herbs in a milk substitute for lactose intolerant adult horses. She claims that the foalhood simulation causes the release of the hormone oxytocin, which calms and relaxes the patient, even though no mother horse is actually present. Lovejoy says that the horses that come to her barn spend more time lying down than they did in their homes, which indicates that they are more relaxed. The horses are turned out during the day and brought into the foalhood stalls at night. She keeps horses in her barn for a full thirty day program and then sends them home refreshed. “Some horses come here after a busy show season to regroup and relax.”.
Although Lovejoy cannot give us names, she says she has had many well-known eventing and jumping horses in her therapy as well as big name show horses. She also does barn visits to help people set up more sleep inducing home environments for her patients.
“It’s never too late for a horse to have a happy foalhood”, Lovejoy says.