A pair of horses came to the farm to become therapy horses.
The younger was Melbourne. She was a healthy mare, despite her legs being scarred by old wire cuts, and steady enough to be a wonderful therapy horse. The first time I ever rode her, at a horse show at which I was volunteering, we tied for first in the ride-a-buck class.
The older, Melbourne’s Mom, was named Kappy. She was blind in one eye, which isn’t a death sentence for a horse, but certainly makes their life harder. And she was one who obviously had not ever had a strong relationship with a human. She was kind, but leery of letting a person tell her what to do. She would come up for attention, but was not going to allow herself to be led blindly around the arena.
I worked with her for a while, trying to teach her that she was safe in the arena, and she was safe putting herself into the hands of humans, small though we were.
Walking on her blind side, even though it’s the opposite to how you usually lead a horse, I showed her that I wouldn’t run her into walls, or leave her alone to muddle through the equipment in the arena.
She even came to the point where I could ride her, encouraging her with my voice when she was afraid to move forward. We made slow progress around the arena, but she was doing well.
She was a good little horse, but it takes a unique horse to really do well as a therapy horse, and a nervous, untrusting horse is not a good choice. Too much happens during lessons, and they can’t be afraid of fast reactions.
So Kappy was eventually adopted by someone who was able to give her a quiet home in a pasture. Shortly after that, Melbourne was moved there too, to be a companion to her Mom.
I missed the two of them, but it is better sometimes to find a new home instead of forcing a horse into a job she is not built for.
Blind, or partially blind horses have to know at all times that they are safe and will not be told to do something that may harm them. Therapy horses have to be able to know when to listen, and when to ignore their rider in order to keep everyone safe. Not a good environment for a half-blind horse with trust issues.
With horse therapy, you make a lot of difficult decisions. Is this horse right for therapy? Is it good to keep this horse who seems perfect for therapy, but doesn’t seem to enjoy it? How about the horse who loves the classes, and is loved by all riders, but isn’t healthy enough to do the classes anymore?
When you’re making choices that impact the lives of many other creatures, both human and horse, how do you make the wisest ones? And how do you do it without going crazy?