Last weekend I had the honor and pleasure of conducting a 2 day Horse Therapy Event at Verde View Equestrian Center (VVEC) in Harpursville NY. Saturday was for the therapy horses, instuctors and volunteers; Sunday was open to neighbors and friends as a fund raiser. While the Therapy For Therapy horses clinic is tailored to hard working Therapy Horses, these release and relax exercises are wonderful for all horses.
|The Healing Place at Verde View|
VVEC is a lovely farm nestled in the mountains of south central NY offering equine assisted therapy to children with a wide variety of health situations. The barn is beautiful, safe and inviting. With 2 PATH certified instructors, a host of hard working volunteers, wise and careful horses, the atmosphere at the farm is one of healing, understanding and love. Whether you're in the indoor arena where the horses do their magic, or the spacious gathering room where families can watch through a wall of windows, or strolling the lovely grounds surrounding the barn, the feeling of welcome, peace and healing embrace you.
The feeling of well being at VVEC extends to, and embraces, the therapy horses, too. Lifelong horse women, Lori Piccrilli and her daughter Marissa always have the horses' best interest in mind and do provide the best of care, in every way.
Understanding that therapy horses have jobs which are demanding both physically and mentally, Lori and Marissa go to great lengths to ensure the horses' good health, happiness and contentment. Off duty the horses have room to roam, and relax. Included in the care giving horses' routine are regularly scheduled trail rides; a few volunteers sole responsibility is to ride the therapy horses though the beautiful mountains ... This is one thing I strongly recommend at my Therapy Horse clinics. And it is important to note, riding in the ring is not a form of relaxation for the Therapy Horses. Neither is standing in a stall.
Even understanding and implementing all the best of horse care practices, Lori was not quite satisfied with everything about her Therapy Horses. She noticed they sometimes seemed less eager to do their jobs. Little things like not standing still, or walking hesitantly or with short choppy strides, or offering a nip during therapy sessions told her all was not as it should be. Being an astute therapist, Lori knew these were signs of discomfort or pain and she began to search for solutions. So when she heard about my "Therapy For Therapy Horse" clinics she immediately contacted me. My clinics are designed to teach instructors and volunteers easy to do and learn exercises that release and relax the horse's body, promote proper body carriage and even clear their mind.
We gathered in the barn Saturday morning, the Therapy Horses, Lori, Marissa, volunteers, and a very friendly cat. We start without the horses. Well, without real horses, anyway. So that the volunteers and participants might fully appreciate the needs and benefits of the Therapy Horse exercises, we start first by role playing. We divide the group in pairs, and one person is the horse, the other the person, or rider. We do a few little exercises so each person can see, and feel, the world through the horse's perspective. When participants take turns riding each other, and the rider makes moves most riders will do, the gasps from the "Human Horse" are telling, as most people are shocked to learn what a horse feels, especially a Therapy Horse.
|Instructors, volunteers, and Healing Horses gathered together as we start our exercises.|
After I'd tired out the "human horses" we invited the real therapy horses to join us, and everyone did a terrific job learning a series of about a dozen easy exercises. What a fine time we had, eager questions, some laughs and stories, great efforts to learn how to do the exercises and wonderfully noticeable differences in the horses. Lori and Marissa commented how they noticed the new posture and strides of the horses. Lori even commented that she was surprised to learn all the horses were sore and needed this so much, because most of the horses had seemed just fine. "There is not a single horse who is not moving better and happier tonight," Lori said. She also told the group she could see how it not only benefited the horses of course, but also the quality of therapy the children would receive.
Sunday we had a brand new group of participants, friends and neighbors who wanted to learn the exercises for their trail horses. We had just as much fun, lots of great learning, too. Also included in the Sunday group were 2 of therapy horses who had been through the clinic on Saturday. Lori and Marissa were working with them ... Important to share with you here, is that these two horses have significant old injury issues, and could never stand still, and always nipped the leader. Sunday morning, after just Saturday's clinic, they both stood quietly, ground tied, and never once tried to nip.
|Moxie, who could not stand still Saturday was so relaxed on Sunday we thought he fell asleep.|
Lori and her husband Ray took such great care of me all weekend, showing me the sights of the mountain, town and a great restaurant! Their boys, Jonathan and Ryan are simply a delight to be with. And of course I whooped up on Ray in chess!
|I was explaining something ...|
Thank you Lori and everyone at Verde View for caring this much about your horses! What a wonderful weekend and I can't wait to go back!
Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry