Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How much Therapy does a Therapy Horse (or any horse) need

Howdy Folks,

How fast does a horse get out of shape? How much Therapy does a Therapy Horse (or any horse) need? Does anyone really know? Is every horse and situation different? … Yesterday I spent the morning at Sprouse's Corner Farm doing Therapy for Therapy Horses exercises as I've been doing most Monday's this year. You may remember when I wrote about Donnie & Petey before and their progress with the exercises.

There are several other Therapy Horses at Sprouse's corner and most recently I've been working them. Donnie and Petey had progressed to the point with improved attitude and softer stride that LaRue, the owner, had wanted to work on a few other horses, including a recent rescue. And along the way I missed a few weeks, so it has been about 7 weeks since I've worked with Donnie and Petey.

When I speak of improved attitude, both Donnie and Petey are very polite, excellent lesson horses. Petey is only 3 and his work load is light, perhaps a lesson a week, we were doing therapy for him because when LaRue rescued him he was a physical and mental wreck, a sad story. In Donnie's case he is her best Lesson and Therapy horse averaging 3 to 5 lessons a day, 3 or 4 days a week.

Donnie had responded so well to the Therapy for Therapy Horses exercises that LaRue had commented the children could ride without hanging on the reins, which they often do when looking for their own balance. This uncertainty in the rider is often caused by a horse heavy on the forehand who hurries and takes uneven, short strides. About 3 weeks into his own therapy Donnie was even more attentive and floating so smoothly in stride that the children found new confidence and were content to ride on a loose rein.

Petey had learned to stand and walk off his forehand, but he had other issues too. He held himself inverted and had a lot of pain in his sacral area, and was weak in his hind end, and fidgeted and nipped a lot.

Yesterday we were working with a new volunteer, spreading the word of therapy exercises, and LaRue wanted me to see Donnie and Petey again. She was surprised at how they had regressed in the past few weeks. When I started with them yesterday, I was too. Donnie was tight all over, especially in his neck and shoulders, on the forehand and had trouble focusing. Petey, even though he is on very light duty, was sore in his sacral, on his forehand, lost awareness in his hind end, did not want to focus and was nipping  again.

So it only took a little over a month to see these changes go backward. The good news is by the end of today's session they were both well on their way back to healthy, happy minds and bodies. So while it would seem horses may lose their posture and condition quickly, after the horse is familiar with the Therapy exercises they can recover quickly, too.

How much Therapy do they need? There are a few simple things such as Belly/Back lift and Rock Back and TTOUCH along their back that I think you can and should do daily, certainly every time you tack up, and the others after you've made progress, every week or two seems to be enough.  That's what I do with Kessy.

Have a perfect day!
And Gitty Up ~ Dutch


  1. No disrespect intended; After your deft attention in getting this 3 year old in shape, he was only worked a couple times a week, with no 'in between' refreshers at home, and then more or less idled around the farm for about 6 weeks or so.

    How 'light' was Petey's workload as a therapy horse and why was he allowed to become bored and fall back into bad habits? One day for a couple hours, doesn't seem like a lot, when you face the rigors a therapy horse faces, but I am a novice in training, who could stand being corrected when I'm out of my depth.

    I am sure there is a lot more going on in the psyche of horses. Small things herd and/or environment related that the average rider, or owner do not notice until action needs to be taken. Is there any advice you could offer about some of these small things to be aware or watchful on?

    Keep us posted as things progress here, please. You are a valued and cherished resource to the horse community.

  2. Thanks Oz. Petey is not really "worked" and does get great care, as do all the horses, and children, at Sprouse's corner. Petey does a lesson a week, for the purpose of helping him learn. LaRue will ride him once in a while too.

    Please don't think anyone there gets neglected, they don't. I wrote about this because it is a wonderful example of how even very well cared for horses need a little therapy, or exercises, in addition to excellent care. They can benefit greatly from exercises that relax and release.

    Petey had a very rough start before LaRue rescued him. He was started way too young, before he was even two. And was started in a rough manner. He has come a long way, is growing and filling out. I shared these stories to show how much these exercises can help, how important they are to make part of a regular routine. Also how after the horse learns them, how easy they are to refresh.

  3. Thank you for the quick reply and clarifications. I had no intention of sounding mean spirited, and I fully understand the rigors and demands that LaRue face on a daily basis.

    Again, I cannot thank you, and the folks at Sprouse's Corner, for all the great things you do for, and with horses helping people in need.

    Bliss and blessings to each of you, in all things, always

    1. Great questions Odee,and thank you for all you do to help others, too!