Burnout, trauma and stress levels are high due to the pandemic, changes in work and school environments, and the high cost of living. As a horse person, you know the therapeutic benefits of simply being in a horse’s presence. If you want to share those benefits with others, then you and your therapy Miniature Horse need to gain the experience needed to do so safely for both of you.
“The field is exceptionally rewarding, and being able to have an impact on people is great. You can help people in so many ways when you have a Miniature Horse by your side that you never could on your own,” said Lisa Moad, founder of Seven Oaks Farm Miniature Therapy Horses in Ohio. The farm specializes in training handlers and trainers to deliver high-quality therapy services in partnership with minis.
If you want to get involved with therapy horses, look groups that are willing to help you get answers to your questions. It’s not a simple task to train a therapy horse, but the rewards are great.
“Realize that doing therapy work will cost you emotionally; it will cost you physically as you train; and it will cost you financially as you care for your horse,” she said. “Good, consistent training is the key to any program, and that applies as much to the handler as the horse.”
When Carrie Brady—owner of Possibilities Farm in New York—first started working with therapy horses, she discovered that everyone had his or her own approach. However, the one constant that was imperative was having a relationship with the minis and knowing what will work best for them.
“Don't underestimate your role—you are providing safety for your mini," said Brady. "On one trip, I made the mistake of handing Paddington's lead rope to another experienced horse person so I could step back and take a picture. As soon as I let go of the rope, Paddington started to worry and trotted to the door. I learned that any time we travel, I either need to always be the one holding the lead rope or to allow him to get to know the person long before the offsite visit.”
Editor's note: Anyone interested in working with mini therapy horses should volunteer at reputable facilities to "learn the ropes" and get training for themselves and their horses before embarking on the mission of providing therapy services. If you need a therapy horse yourself, make sure to work with your veterinarian to ensure the horse's physical and mental needs are met.