Equine-assisted therapy is team work, and there are no members more important to the the team than the horses.
Recruiting the A-team
Many of Lucky Harvest’s horses have been rescues, or donations from people who have to find a good new home for their beloved companions. But not just any horse, no matter how lovely, talented or in need, can become a therapy horse for riding. It takes certain characteristics to make a horse trainable and safe enough to perform effectively and reliably with riders with different abilities and needs. Choosing the ones that will become part of the team is a careful and lengthy process. Giving them the necessary further appropriate training takes even longer.
When we hear of a possible candidate for our programme, our instructors and trainers go to the location where the horse is and “interview” her. They look for certain innate personality traits: calmness, level-headedness, maturity, energy, lack of meanness, lack of spooking in response to new people, sounds, and motions. The instructors can make some immediate assessments just by regarding her and observing how she presents herself in the situation and reacts to their presence, how she moves, her facial expressions and the carriage of her head. They are at the same time deducing the state of her health.
Then comes more-interventionist testing. Picking up her hooves, checking their condition, checking her teeth, legs, eyes, and touching her all over, observing both her health and her willingness to coöperate. Leading, lunging and of course riding her, judging the while how trainable she may still be, what kinks will need to be addressed. Startling her with sudden and loud noises and abrupt movements. This testing will continue over several visits.
Once the instructors decide that the horse may be worth investing further time and training in, she will be brought to our facility. Often on a trial basis. Many hours over many months will go into her training before a client is allowed to ride her, in the arena. And sometimes, sadly, even after all this she may be judged inappropriate for our needs.
A horse’s life at Lucky Harvest
Happily, horses are by nature adaptable and sociable. A horse’s training by no means stops after she becomes an active therapy-provider. It continues, both for exercise and for reinforcement of positive behaviour, throughout her life with us. She will be ridden, lunged and groomed regularly, so that she will be trusting and her behaviour will be predictable to all who deal with her.
We are a population of horse-lovers, here at Lucky Harvest, and nothing matters more to us than the good health of our four-legged teammates. Veterinary visits are regularly scheduled. Many of our horses have had various medical needs develop as they aged, or even arrived with them, requiring appropriate treatments. A professional farrier keeps hooves trimmed as needed. Regular grooming, by staff and by clients, keeps us on top of any changes in condition.
Feed is a critical component of good equine health. We get the best hay we can, and it is boosted with supplements that vary according to individual needs.
The daily routine starts with the horses being turned out to paddocks, where they enjoy breakfast while their stalls are cleaned. They each have coats for less than ideal weather, face masks for fly and blackfly seasons, and shade from surrounding trees. It is a pretty good life.
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