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condsidering my horse for TR, where do I begin?

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  • condsidering my horse for TR, where do I begin?

    Though its a quite long story, the concise version is I have a horse that is suffering from back pain that I think might be a candidate for therapeutic riding.

    I have a lot more sleuthing to do about his condition, but he is sound without drugs or management of any kind, just has very special needs when it comes to weight on his back. He can be ridden, as long as consideration to how weight is distributed. He does best when in a consistent light work program. He's otherwise sound, zero maintenance, extremely easy keeper and kid-safe.

    On top of this, though he needs some more training, I think he has the innate personality not only to cut it as a TR horse but also thrive. I've had two horses in the past that were accepted for TR programs, so I'm familiar in general terms, as an outsider looking in, of what one looks for.

    I'm not set on this idea, just considering it as an option. I'm frankly all over the map emotionally with this horse, I'm really hoping he cuts it as a driving horse, he's doing well so far.

    So my question is, how do I get started doing my homework? The first thing is I need to get familiar with the different job options and requirements for a TR horse and see what I think he might fit and I can groom him for. Is there a standard? or is it up to the individual facility's style and client base?

    Then I need to get familiar with the tack used, and whether it'll suit him, and/or if I can modify it to suit. Are there ever any TR options involving driving?

    Finally, I love my horse and he always has a home with me for life. Though I'd be looking to donate him, how can I ensure that he always comes home to me if for some reason he doesn't work out or isn't useable? And, can I be part of his training in his new home, and monitor his progress and stay a part of his life?

    My first inclination was to just start cold calling and visiting centers in my area, but I thought better of that as I might come across as a crazy lady looking to dump her horse, which couldn't be furthest from the truth. I really think he's got what it takes, but I need to know more.

    Thanks all!
    Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

  • #2
    I don't know how many takers you are going to have for a special needs horse that requires training. TR horses have to bear students who are large, heavy and/or uncoordinated riders. It takes a special horse to tolerate the demands of TR. The horses also have to be incredibly patient, calm and well trained. Most of the TR centers I know want draft or draft crosses.

    If your horse has a home for life, then let him stay there. I just don't see TR as a good option for a horse with a bad back.
    Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


    • #3
      Buck22, I will tell you what we look for and require. We are very selective, more than many programs, but it will give you a good idea of what we do and look for in a horse.

      Ideally the horse is a gelding, between 15-22 years old.

      The horse needs to be sound at the W/T/C and we do have students who compete with our horses locally and we offer Special Olympics so a solidly trained horse with a versatile background is in high demand

      The horse needs to be kind. Not spooky, a steadfast trusting mount.

      TR and Hippotherapy can be very difficult on horses. Unsteady and unbalanced riders are the norm. With Hippotherapy, riders will lay across the back, ride backwards etc. so a good strong backed horse is very important. The horses here have a solid conditioning program while they are in work to keep them in top condition.

      Good feet are very important too. Corrective shoeing can be expensive...and expensive is something most programs can't do so a horse that can get along well barefoot or with easy boots is preferred.

      We don't mind horses that might be a little stiff or are older. And a horse with a special diet isn't always a definite no either. But we cannot take horses that require expensive injections etc. for obvious reasons.

      We prefer horses that can live out. We don't like to keep our horses stalled so if the horse does best stalled it might not be a good choice for us. The horses work hard and we feel they need as much time out to "be horses" as possible.

      One of the most important things is that the horse must be able to stand like a stone for mounting and be comfortable with two or three people flanking him. This seems like a small issue but it is not. Some of the most wonderful horses in the world absolutely HATE having sidewalkers on each side.

      There are many, many other things but this should give you a good idea of what we look for
      I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

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


      • #4
        And Ironwood, thanks for mentions the draft and draftx's.

        Quarter horses are very common, but horses like Haffies, Fjords, perch and clyde crosses are excellent for children and adults. The larger crosses aren't ideal for Hippotherapy because of their height. But for independent larger or adult riders they can be perfect.
        I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

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


        • #5
          More than one way to help

          There are other ways of helping besides mounted work. Equine assisted therapy is one. I would suggest talking to some of the centers on our forum. Check the stickies at the top of the forum.
          Equineartworks, DressageGeek(specialhorses) can help direct you.

          Frequently there are fundraising threads on the off course forum for the ones that specialhorses helps.

          There are introduction threads that you can find using the "search" key, too.

          The national organizations have information, too.
          Intermediate Riding Skills


          • #6
            I can't imagine that a horse with back problems who requires special consideration as to how much and where and how weight is distributed, will do well in a therapeutic riding program., even if his personality and training are otherwise stellar.

            Give your horse the decent retirement he deserves, find a companion home or euth him, but TR horses need to be fit and tolerant of misplaced, uneven,flopping, wiggling and overweight on their backs- all the things your horse needs special consideration for.

            When you "donate" anything, you don't get to control if you get it back or where it goes. There are lots of examples of horses being donated to kids camps, rescues etc, where the story goes very bad and the horse ends up at auction at the end of the camp.

            If you do find a placement for your horse, try a free lease, where you have a little more control. If he does seem to work out as a TR horse, the TR program would probably be happy to do a shared care program, where you maintain control and pay part of the expenses.
            "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


            • #7
              Originally posted by whicker View Post
              There are other ways of helping besides mounted work. Equine assisted therapy is one. I would suggest talking to some of the centers on our forum. Check the stickies at the top of the forum.
              Equineartworks, DressageGeek(specialhorses) can help direct you.

              Frequently there are fundraising threads on the off course forum for the ones that specialhorses helps.

              There are introduction threads that you can find using the "search" key, too.

              The national organizations have information, too.
              In our case we do still need horses who are used with unmounted work to be sound for riding. It's hard to have horses that cannot do it all. Paco is on the IR right now, and if he cannot return to riding he will be used exclusively for unmounted work. But he is also my own personal horse so the situation is different. Most centers will either own or lease the horses they use in the program and don't have the option to have horses in rehab like we do.
              I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

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


              • #8
                I board at a barn with a TR program and voluteered in it intensively for quite a few years. Our b/o has turned down almost every horse offered to her, often because there's some problem, like "he's off a little but otherwise he's fine." In addition to all the things equineartworks said, they need to able to function around wheelchairs, loud outbursts from "nonverbal" riders, crutches, attendants who know nothing about horses but need to be involved in mounting, and so forth. Really great TR horses understand what they are doing. We had an Appy gelding who actually leaned toward the mounting dock for TR riders, but gave the ablebodied adult a real challenge.
                Providence sometimes takes care of idiots. Agnes Morley Cleaveland in No Life for a Lady.


                • Original Poster

                  WOW, thanks everyone for the great feedback!

                  Ironwood: I didn't realize all programs had large heavy riders, I thought there were some children's ones, but this is what I came here to learn. I would train my horse specifically for the facility and his precise job is what I meant to say, I'd present a fully trained animal ready to get to work. I guess I wasn't clear. Thanks!

                  EArtworks: thanks very much for the detailed description!! I'm pretty familiar with much of what you've described, I've had two horses that were accepted to TR programs before, they met the criteria, basically what you outlined with the exception of being able to canter for one. I know these centers are operating on a near zero budget, so things like supplements, shoes, special diets & care, special living arrangements, are all huge considerations. Thats why I thought my horse one to consider, he's near-zero maintenance, sound, lives outside, extremely easy keeper, requires no shoes or injections, etc, safe on fencing, good in a group, etc. He also is solid on the ground, with sidewalkers, toys, noises, things around his legs, whatever you name it, he's innately good and basically happy to be lazy and stand by a mounting block all day. He is not, however, a large horse, he's quite small, 14.3 and fine boned.

                  I did *not* realize that TR was hard on a horse physically, I always thought it was a program for horses entering their golden years, thats what I needed to learn thank you so much.

                  Whicker: thanks! thats what I was hoping to learn! I'll start looking into that.

                  CatOnLap: The horse is relatively young, coming 11. Though he always has a home with me because I adore him and he's my responsibility, I board, and so its not quite as easy a thing of just sticking him out back to live out his days. I wish it were. Besides which, he's got a good personality, he likes pleasing people and I've had him around some beginners lately and he's really pleasantly surprised me how tolerant and giving he's become. Thats what sparked the idea, a possible win win situation, the horse gets to do low key easy work that is mentally stimulating and gratifying, etc. As far as weight bearing, thats what I came here to find out. I'd thought I'd seen saddles for the extremely handicapped that were quite large and boxy. I'm envisioning they fit a horse much like panniers, and if thats so, that might be promising. Thank you so much about the free lease tidbit! Thats really valuable to me. I don't mind paying some expenses, he'd have lifelong free hoof trimming too by me I'd want to stay active in his life, making sure he was happy, everyone was happy. Its not a control issue when times are good, but control issue if things went wrong, like the center lost its funding, etc, and horses had to be disbanded. I'd never want this horse sent on down the line, I'd go back to boarding him. You've made it quite clear though that TR isn't what I had hoped, and my horse would not be a good candidate, thanks for your help.

                  Walktrot: Thanks. Again, I do know many of the special and very strict requirements a TR horse must meet, and thats why I felt my boy a possible match, but if w/t/c with a large unbalanced heavy rider in a regular saddle is a requirement, then he doesn't meet that, so its cased closed.

                  I guess what I was envisioning was what I'd seen when tr groups came out to try my horses, small young kids up, walking along being led with two side walkers, tossing balls, playing with hoola hoops around the neck, pool noodles under the tail/legs, etc., plodding around a ring all day with toys and kids, laughing and squealing, etc. Not conventional tack, and not cantering, and not carrying unbalanced heavy adults going 'round the world', that he can't do sadly.

                  Oh well, thanks for everyone's help.
                  Last edited by buck22; Jun. 17, 2010, 04:54 PM.
                  Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by buck22 View Post

                    I did *not* realize that TR was hard on a horse physically, I always thought it was a program for horses entering their golden years, thats what I needed to learn thank you so much.
                    That's why I love this forum, we all learn so much from each other! Not a week goes by that I don't get a call from someone with a lovely senior horse they want to donate, it is a very common thought that TR centers prefer older, slower going horses. Because of what we do it seems logical that we wouldn't want speed demons But the horses do work very hard.

                    Our horses have it pretty good, they are on day on-day off schedules, only ridden every other lesson so they can rest and so on. But in some programs they have horses working 6-7 back to back lessons 5 days a week. Think busy lesson barn busy. That is a long hard day for an older horse! Especially when you have riders who are unstable, unbalanced etc.

                    If you do want to donate him be sure to visit the program several times before you do He sounds like a lovely horse and I hope you find the best new job for him
                    I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

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


                    • #11
                      ok what giving him to a horse assisted counselling program.

                      there the subjects(thats how they make the clients feel) catch,groom,sometimes feed the horses and talk about their "problems" while grooming the horses

                      no riding involved


                      • #12
                        You had asked if TR ever involved driving, so I thought I'd chime in to say, yes, there are many centers that do driving as a part of their services. It would depend on the program whether or not they can accept horses that can only be driven and not ridden, but I would not rule it out. You can search for NARHA programs that do driving here:

                        NARHA Center Search