As 2016 comes to a close, we want to share the story about Shahara, the smallest of the 14-head herd of therapy horses at Giant Steps Therapeutic Riding in Petaluma, California, and arguably the sweetest. In 2015, Shahara was diagnosed with a full-blown case of laminitis.
Horses young and old of all different shapes, sizes, conformations and temperaments are offered to therapeutic riding centers on a daily basis but most are not accepted. Owners might be left wondering why, if they are donating a horse for free, but not every horse has what it takes to enter a therapeutic riding program, including soundness at all gaits, a sweet temperament and low flight response, all of which are required to give clients a safe and physically beneficial riding experience.
Once considered a candidate, the horses require extensive training, including being led in a manner that encourages the horse to walk beside the leader¹s shoulder and to speed up and slow down in response to the leader¹s body language and rhythm. The horses must also be exposed to various loud noises, such as music, toys and riders with enthusiasm. In addition, the horses are exposed to various assistive teaching devices, such as batons, rings, toys and flags being either handled by the volunteer or carried by the rider.
The staff at Giant Steps valued the Shahara’s special gifts as a therapy horse and elected to allow the horse to spend over a year recovering. Shahara received acupuncture, chiropractic work, frequent farrier work and vet visits, medication, and heart bar shoes, much of which was donated by the extremely generous Sonoma County equine community.
Giant Steps was one of 91 equine charities across the United States that received financial support from the EQUUS Foundation – in this case, to reimburse Giant Steps for the expenses associated with Shahara’s recovery that were not donated.
Shahara returned to work in April, receiving glowing reports from both the farrier and veterinarian. She participated in 4-5 lessons/week in the summer session, and ended the year with 6-7 weekly lessons in the fall.
Thank you for helping Shahara smile again and bringing smiles to the faces of the riders at Giant Steps with more than 60+ distinct disabilities, encompassing physical, developmental, cognitive, and behavioral challenges.
Shahara back in work