CRITERIA FOR DONATING A THERAPY HORSE

Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International Member Centers, of which Eagles’ Wings Stable is a member, depend on the generosity of horse owners to acquire horses and ponies for therapeutic riding programs. Today, more than 4,500 caring and devoted horses of many different breeds, ages and sizes are serving individuals with disabilities.

Many horses are donated to PATH International Centers because owners outgrow them. Some are retired competitors whose owners want them to lead less strenuous lives. And some horses are donated because the owner's tax credit is more of a benefit then selling the horse. Whatever the reason for the donation, each horse must meet a PATH International Center's needs and pass a trial testing and training period before he is main streamed into the program.

 

Horses are selected based on specific needs of a center's students and the types of services the center offers. No single type of horse can fill all the possible roles in therapeutic riding. The most talented horse's skills are lost if his abilities do not fit a center's present needs.

When contacting a PATH International Center regarding the donation of a horse, be prepared to share the horse's background and health records. The following are important factors in deciding if a horse is suitable for therapeutic riding:

Our Primary Need - A gelding of 15 hands or larger in the 8-15 yr old range. 

Breed - Many breeds tend to be predisposed to being a therapy horse, such as the Quarter Horse for its quiet temperament, average size, versatility, and availability. However, every breed has good qualities, and each horse must be viewed as an individual.

Size - In general, mounts averaging 14 to 16 hands in height are the most useful for most riders. However, there are also times when a horse of more than 16 hands is needed to carry tall or heavy riders.

Age - The age range of mounts may vary from five or six years to 20 or more. The most likely prospects are between eight and 16 years.

Health - Centers will want to check the health of the horse. No center has the time or money to spend nursing a sick or lame horse. A full health and soundness examination is usually requested.

Soundness - This is a major consideration upon which the safety of the rider depends. Centers are extremely cautious in accepting a horse with any history of major lameness (navicular, ring bone, arthritis, etc.). A rider with a disability does not need a horse with a disability.

Gaits and Manner of Going – In general, three good, clear gaits at the walk, trot, and canter. A good mount for riders with disabilities is one that moves forward easily and freely, picking up its feet and responding readily to voice commands. In therapeutic terms, the horse's movement gives direct input to the rider's body.

Attitude and Manners - The attitude and manners of a horse are the most important considerations. For the safety of riders, the horse must be gentle and indifferent toward objects moving nearby or touching him. The horse should also accept new experiences calmly and get along with other horses. He should be able to reside peacefully in a pasture or paddock.

Trial Period - Once the preliminary selection is made, centers almost always request a trial period. Working with a horse during this period allows the center time to determine whether the horse will fit into a therapeutic riding program. Since each center has different needs, trial periods will vary from center to center in terms of length and evaluation procedures. When a horse is accepted for trial, a full written health record will be requested. The record should include current and past shots, deworming schedule, dental care, and shoeing needs.

Throughout the trial period, the prospective mount is closely watched for any habits that may cause problems in or out of work. The trial period also allows the horse time to understand his new surroundings and work while building a bond of trust and confidence with his riders and instructors.

Therapy Horse Retirement - If any horse is no longer useful to the program or the program is no longer good for the horse, then the horse is first offered back to the donor. If the donor is not able to take the horse back, then the center looks for a retirement home for the horse. The ideal home would be with someone who has some pasture, someone in need of a companion horse, or someone in need of a wonderful horse that they would like to spend time grooming and fussing over.

If your horse meets the above criteria, please fill in the DONATING YOUR HORSE form below and you will be contacted by Keith Schaurer, President of the Eagles’ Wings Board of Directors.