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Job requirements for a therapy horse?

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  • #21
    Great thread as I've been thinking of donating Louie. And it's simply because I think this would be a perfect job for him. All he wants to do is get some loving from people and tons of attention. He loves having people all over him.
    Do you think they would take 17.1h drafts? He is tall with a rolling draft movement. Very comfy trot as he paddles. But again ... tall!
    Even duct tape can't fix stupid


    • #22
      Good for those assisted by back riders

      LisaB - some programs need horses for riding double - usually a client that can't sit up alone and a physical therapist. They might have a need for this type of horse. If he passes all the other requirements the group trying him needs, they may take him in spite of his height. I know we would have. The difficulty with a horse being so tall is that the side-walkers, whose job it is to support the rider in exercises and get them off in a dangerous situation, are usually volunteers. Volunteers are usually women and tend to be shorter, so they just can't reach that high. So it can be tough to schedule tall volunteers, rider, tall horse and actually get it to come out right. Definitely talk to a couple of groups, some with driving or vaulting programs, as he could be just what they need.


      • #23
        The bigger horses are nice for adult independent riders so I would definitely look for a program LisaB. While he is tall for assisted riders, I know many programs like ours that do group lessons for adult riders several times each year and horses like that are worth their weight in gold
        I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

        Just somebody with a positive outlook on life...go ahead...hate me for that.


        • #24
          Does age factor in when donating? I have a 22 year old that I was thinking of donating. Was a beginner lesson horse, LOVES attention (petted, brushed, etc) very forgivable, about 15.1. He has mild hock arthritis, but still canters in for his food every meal. Very easy keeper with grass. But is that too old? I think he would make a perfect horse for a program.

          Also if I donated him to a local place would I still be able to visit him?? How does that work?
          Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
          Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
          Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
          Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook


          • #25
            22 is a youngster!

            Age is relative - many horses work into their late 20s and some into their 30s.
            They would love to have you visit - and volunteer! He sounds like he'd be great so definitely look into it. What most groups don't have is extra money for maintenance drugs, and I would ask about what they do if a horse passes away. That way you could step in for the type of care you'd have if he was in your custody. Often, meds and services are donated, or there are one or two independently wealthy folks on the board/staff/volunteer roster who take care of "extras", but it would be good to know. If you've had him most of his life I'm sure you are concerned about a good ending - even better if it's not for another 15 years.


            • #26
              Regarding "riding double"

              I would not donate any horse to a program that continues to practice "backriding" where two people are mounted on the horse, one of which has a disability. There is increased risk to the horse's back as the therapist is sitting further back onto the horses loins- the weakest part of the back. In addition there is increased risk to both of the people mounted. The American Hippotherapy Association shows a great video called "Alternatives to backriding" that give many options that don't involve risking two people and the horse's back and soundness.

              As far at as a 17h draft, if you find the right program with larger riders that are more independent it might work. This horse would probably not be suitable for sidewalkers due to his height. However, program who are working with special olympics student may be more suitable as may of them are riding more independently.
              Karma and Drifter girl


              • #27
                I'm with Karma - no backriding. If they still do that, go elsewhere. Re the draft - you might look for a program that's doing things with veterans. We considered getting into that at our program because we have a local VA hospital but realized we'd need a whole second string of horses who could carry larger men; most of ours have a weight limit around 160 lb. Generally we don't consider drafts at our program because like someone else said, most of our volunteers are women without a lot of horse experience and drafts can be intimidating, and some will take advantage if they are used to being handled by a strong, experienced horseman and find themselves with someone who is tentative (as will any horse!).

                The 22-y-o with some arthritis who's already been a beginner lesson horse would skip to the top of my list (however, our program director prefers to take them about 10 years younger, so just because he'd be on my list woudl be no guarantee he'd actually come on trial!). He'd stay at the top of my list if you offered to pay to have his hocks injected once or twice a year, and/or keep him in Smartpacks of whatever joint supplement you want him to get. He'd be on the trailer heading over if you offered to lease him to us and take him back when he needs to retire.


                • Original Poster

                  LisaB and others--

                  While tall is a drawback, kind n' comfy is a plus. As a couple of people made clear to me, the average American is getting heavier, so larger horses are needed to accommodate these folks. I think it would be great if a program could served someone weighing upwards of 200 lbs..

                  I think it comes down to leg work on the donator's part and really good, candid communication. In my case, it seemed to open doors that I would:

                  1) Allow a trial for as long as they liked.

                  2) Offered to take back my horse if he ever wanted to quit his job there.

                  3) Offered to contribute to the cost of bute and whatnot that would make him comfortable.

                  We'll see what happens, but I got a really good feeling from speaking to people at some local programs who didn't mind my wanting to stay involved with my horse and who could tell me lots about what they wanted and how my horse would live and be handled.
                  The armchair saddler
                  Politically Pro-Cat


                  • #29
                    It is nice of you to consider donating such a great horse. I'm sure he would be welcomed with open arms at most programs if he is a solid citizen and can carry a little weight.

                    You may have been given this suggestion already, but I'll share my 2 cents. Make sure you double check to make sure the program is NARHA Accredited because those programs must go through reaccreditation which means there is a body checking on the way the barn is run, how the horses are handled and cared for and what their medical care consists of.

                    Also, I would suggest that you consider a program that also has a Barn Buddies type program. It's a win/win situation where more experienced able riders have one special horse that is their project. The Barn Buddy is responsible for extra grooming, attention, hand walking and in some cases, trail rides and other types of activities that give the horses a mental break from a demanding job.


                    • #30
                      There are all kinds of programs.
                      The more basic ones just have one on one lessons, with a therapist, one or two side walkers, the client has a wide leather belt with two handles for that and a horse leader taking care of what the horse does.

                      Those programs are not for learning to ride, just for the client doing whatever therapy is indicated for their problems.
                      The most basic therapy is just how the horse moves at a walk, that is similar to how people's body moves, other than it doesn't use the legs the same.

                      That alone helps injured people recover many functions, just by that movement their bodies are learning or relearning to handle.
                      Then you build with exercises from that.

                      That kind of therapy is different than handicapped riders learning to ride and some eventually compete with horses.

                      Here, we just have the basic therapy group, that handles clients and the non profit handles the finances, so all that need this program, even if they can't afford it, have access to it.

                      You need to find what groups you have in your area and ask around, because your horse may not work for one group and still be ideal for another.


                      • #31
                        I'm so glad to see other voices on COTH giving the "therapy horses must be sound" argument. The growth of the therapeutic riding industry has had a wonderful secondary benefit of creating a job market for semi-retired equines. Sadly, this has somehow been perceived as a useful spot for horses who are no longer sound enough to compete. For many riders with disabilities, it is even more important that a horse be sound than it is for an able-bodied rider. If you are trying to learn to post, or have weakness on one side of your body, or are unable to see, riding a horse with an uneven gait can be very difficult. And, horses are part of the staff in a therapeutic riding program. Unfortunately, we all know just how expensive they can be as staff members! For a program that is relying on donations to support the tremendous costs, a horse needs to be able to, pardon the pun, pull his own weight. And for many programs, Adequan, joint injections, etc, are just not in the budget. For a horse who is well-trained but no longer sound enough to hold up to the rigors of competition, or jump a 3' course, therapeutic riding can be a perfect step down, but most therapeutic riding centers cannot take on an unsound horse. Also, just to clarify about the height requirement--most centers prefer horses 16 hh and under, so that sidewalkers of average height can reach the rider--to reinforce aids and assist, but also in case of an emergency. Some of our riders would be very compromised by a fall, and we make every effort to avoid them; sidewalkers are trained to pull the rider off the horse in certain situations, and obviously this is difficult with a 17 hh horse (unless, of course, you are lucky enough to have 6'6" sidewalkers volunteering ).

                        OP, best of luck in finding the right spot for your guy, he sounds like a sweetheart!


                        • #32
                          I donated my paint mare to our local, certifed ability center. She had the perfect personality, they called me 4 days into her 6 week trial and said she passed with flying colors. I sent her with her blankets, bridle, boots, etc but made the stipulation that I was to get her back when she was finished w/her career. I visited her over the next few years and she was happy and healthy. She did walk lessons and w/t/c with a blind woman. When her previously mild arthritis was too advanced to allow her to allow her to be comfortable, I brought her to my boarding barn for the summer and fall. She enjoyed lots of food and pature time before I put her down. The only negative thing about the situation is most therapy programs are largely volunteer driven. All of the volunteers are kind and caring but may not have a extensive "horsey" backgrounds. When I got her back she had a severe case of uveitis which we got cleared up with medications. I do not think they neglected her but simply did not know any better. I know that most programs are run by professional horsemen but often the volunteers are doing most of the handling. If you live close enough to visit every months, it is well advised since you know your horse better than anyone. If your horse is the right fit, I feel that you can make a real difference in many lives. Good luck with your decision.


                          • #33
                            There are all ways to organize these kinds of horse assited therapy groups.
                            To be considered for 501 status you have to jump thru many hoops, so that determines how you can do business.

                            In our group, the clients that have insurance, the insurance pays according to their contract and the non-profit handles hiring the therapist, the rest of the co-payment fees and boarding for some of the horses.
                            Horses are privately owned and those close are hauled to the barn for lessons, others are boarded there.
                            The horse owners pay for the horse's regular care, vaccines, teeth floating, etc. and any veterinary work necessary, the group pays for feet care and boarding and sometimes the local chiropractor/veterinarian does some of that work free or at a reduced rate.
                            We have a very solid core volunteer group that are many active and some competing horsemen themselves, so horses and lessons are done in the best interest of horses and safety.

                            As a side note, disabled people are considered people with a disability, the "people" part coming first.
                            Example, we have "an autistic kid" is not a good way to put it, but "a kid with autism" is, because he is a kid first, autism is part of who he is.
                            Following that norm, I like the title of this forum, "Horsemen with Disabilities".