Like people, different horses have different personalities. Having a number of horses to choose from allows us to find a horse that is most appropriate for each client’s goals. For example, a particularly stubborn horse may be paired with a strong-willed teen, providing more opportunities for the client to see him or herself mirrored in the horse.
Unlike humans, horses have no hidden agenda or conflicting feelings. Horses don’t lie and do not hesitate to truthfully indicate to a client “how it is.” Horses also do not respond positively to faulty forms of communication such as manipulation, bullying, or passive aggressive behavior that some clients are accustomed to using.
To successfully work with a horse, controlled and effective body language is essential, forcing clients to be aware of their methods of communication and to be able to problem-solve when existing methods aren’t producing the desired result.
‘HONEY’ (aka Gold Dust)
The newest addition to our herd is a beautiful Gypsy Vanner horse! We won ‘Honey’ in a national contest for PATH riding centers. She was imported from England and has spent the last several years as a broodmare at LexLin Gypsy Ranch in TN. Honey is 13.2hh and not only is she beautiful, but she is so very sweet (hence the barn name ‘Honey’). She has been working with clients as we slowly introduce her to all the things she will be doing as a therapy horse. We will be slowly starting her under saddle. We are excited by her gentle nature and her short but stocky build and know that she is going to be a great therapy horse!
“Ruby” is a 15.1 hh American Bashkir Curly. This somewhat rare but hardy breed has a unique curly coat, mane, and tail. Their thick wavy coat, looking similar to that of rippling water, protects them in harsher, colder climates. In addition to the curly mane and tail, most of the breed also have curly “feathers” above their hooves, curly hair in their ears, and even long curly eyelashes!The American Bashkir Curly is thought to have originated from the European/Russian Bashkir. One theory is that the ancestors of the Russian Bashkir traveled over the former land bridge between Asia and North America. First discovered in Elko, Nevada, the American Bashkir Curly today is developing into a solid all-around horse.While not a large breed, typically standing between 14 hh and 15 hh, the American Bashkir Curly is considered strong and sure. The breed is also known for its gentle, quiet temperament and unflappable nature. All of these qualities make Ruby a perfect horse for the therapy program!Ruby started her life as a broodmare–a horse used to breed babies. She was donated to us when her previous owners decided to no longer breed her. While Ruby was only “green broke” at the time (meaning she could be ridden at the walk and trot but did not have a lot of riding experience), when we met Ruby and saw how quiet and easygoing she was, we knew she had the qualities to make a great therapy horse. After joining N.E.A.T. in January 2010, Ruby has come along beautifully. After only four months of regular lunging and riding work, Ruby easily progressed into a walk, trot, and canter horse. She has also turned into a sound trail-riding horse.Ruby’s gift is that she is very intuitive and congruent. This means that she can tell how someone is feeling and reflects this back to the person, helping them to understand themselves and how their feelings affect others. Her sweet, calm, and gentle nature is very reassuring to our clients. She has been a hit from the start!
RIP MYSTIC COMMANDRESS
Mystic was the first horse in our program. She was tall, kind and so very gentle. She was an Arabian/Saddlebred cross and had ‘leg’ issues off and on throughout her life and we had to let her go in 2019. She is missed…
NV ROCK STAR ‘SAMMY’ HAGAR
‘Sammy’ is a true Mustang. He is a little over 15hh. He was rounded up out in Winnemucca in the Tobin Mountain Range and was ‘started’ by a prisoner at the Carson Prison system in a partnership between the BLM and the Prison System. Sammy is great therapy horse, as he loves attention.
“Kody” is an almost-15 hh Andalusian. This breed originated in Spain and came to the new world with Columbus. They were bred and built as war horses to carry a knight in armor into battle. They are the “cow horse” of Spain and are also used for mounted bullfighting! They make incredible dressage horses and are often called the “dancing horse.” Kody has been part of our herd from the very beginning. His early years were challenging: he had worked with a number of trainers but also had an injury that sidelined him more than once. Because of this inconsistency in his training, Kody was not a very confident horse when Laurie first got him. However, with patience and love, he has blossomed into an incredible therapy horse. He is patient, willing, and cooperative, with a playful personality. On the trail, he can lead or follow, and his big “wide-body” design make him a natural for riding bareback. As an ‘old guy’ he is perfect for working with our little ones!
Reilly is a 16.2hh Oldenburg/Paint cross. He has exceptional training and a great disposition. As a larger horse, Reilly can easily carry our adult clients, but is also a favorite with even the smallest child. This ‘gentle giant’ gets along well with the entire herd. We are so happy to have him as part of the team!
RIP BAXTER’S PASS
11/21/16 Written by Kelsey Mammen
On saying goodbye to a friend:
I want to share about a friend I lost today. Many people had the pleasure of knowing him. I write this for them. And I write it for those who didn’t know him, because he was someone worth knowing.
I met Baxter four years ago, when I started riding and exercising him as a volunteer for NEAT. I noticed what everyone first noticed about Baxter, that he was a big, handsome horse. He was big in many ways, and size was just the first. During the next three years, I worked alongside him and watched him do some incredible work as a therapy horse. I saw girls and young women choose him as theirs, drawn to his presence of power. The tiniest children flocked to him, mesmerized by his eyes. He would put his head down to their level and they would choose him, because they wanted to ride the biggest horse. He made them feel big, when nothing else in life did. Baxter was a horse of integrity and had no problem challenging people to step up and be a leader.
I witnessed him teach troubled teens about their capacity to lead others. I watched him lift women out of deep depression and show them the path to happiness and strength. I stood back and let him teach an anxious child how to communicate.
He was a favorite during group herd observation activities. When turned loose with his herd he demonstrated what it meant to be a fair and firm leader, moving the other horses gently but confidently around an arena, and then having some fun while he was at it. Observers would then describe him as proud, fearless, bossy, larger than life, and a leader.
He loved to run. He loved his clients. He loved his people.
Since I’ve known Baxter his old racing injuries have come back to haunt him. I know he loved racing. I know it because I could feel it every time I cantered him. How much his heart loved to go fast. But in his older years, he was often lame. For long periods of time he couldn’t be ridden and during those times he fell into depression. He didn’t come up to the fence to greet newcomers, his eyes spoke of pain. We recovered him from several of these instances, got him nerved and hoped it would keep his pain at bay. It did, for a while. During that little while he saw his clients. He took up dressage again, and got to spend some quality time with his favorite person, Bambi, while he showed her the ropes of lower level dressage.
But during the last few months the pain came back, a tendon tore. Then it ruptured. He was on stall rest; he was in pain. He couldn’t work and this made him unhappy. He again retreated to the corner of his stall, grateful for the short time he spent each day with our staff and friends when they put his medicine on and took him for short walks. Today we drove him to the vet to have our suspicions confirmed that he was not going to come back from this one.
And then it was time to own up to one of the hardest responsibilities of having a horse. Making the decision to let them go. He was still Baxter today. He ate his breakfast, he loaded in the trailer and paraded around proudly at the vet as best he could with his lame leg. And yet we had to say that it was time. That he wouldn’t be happy with the pain and confinement, and he lived too great, too full of a life to condemn him to that.
I am sad to lose this friend today. He had a way of showing people and horses around him how to be proud of yourself and work hard. To kick up your heels every so often and play. That it’s okay to stop at the arena mirror and admire yourself, and that anyone can feel big if they open their heart and fill it up.
As we drove away from the vet he stood watching the trailer go, with one of the vets petting him and keeping him calm. I watched him in the rearview mirror. To Baxter I say, “You looked handsome, friend.”
Windy is a 15.3 hh Belgian Draft/Quarter Horse cross. It’s not so much that she is tall, as that she is built like a tank! She is still learning all of the things a good therapy horse needs to know, but she is sweet and willing.
FF MARSHAL ‘DILLON’
Dillon was a National Champion in ‘driving’ and ‘in hand’ before starting his new career as a therapy horse. He is so much fun and all the kiddos love him!