Freedom Hooves: Life as a therapy horse — my story
It’s a bright Monday morning at the Freedom Hooves Therapeutic Riding Center, and they come to fetch me from the pasture. I know it is a workday. My stall is ready, stocked with fresh bedding and water, oats and a flake of hay. I am frisky Monday mornings, especially when it’s cool and I’ve had a weekend off, so I am taken to the round pen, where I kick up my heels and tear around as fast as I can. Soon, I tire and settle into a warm-up workout that takes me through gait transitions, and I begin to focus and connect with my handler. I am quiet, happy and ready for a short rest before my littlest rider arrives. My team of instructors and volunteers gather to groom and tack me for this first lesson of the week.
Here he comes now, bursting into the barn anxious to see “my horse Cisco.” He’s a beautiful child with sparkling eyes who has faced challenges in his young life no living creature should have to endure. Yet, he’s so happy and carefree, exploring his world and learning to express his wants and needs — growing, loving and being loved.
Time to go
Into the arena, he’s on board, and I wait for those words, “Walk Cisco.” Off we go to play games in the arena or explore the hilly pasture.
This will be a busy week. Tuesday, I will carry beautiful Ashleigh, a young woman living with cerebral palsy. She rides me to improve her balance and flexibility and, most importantly, to have fun. At Tuesday Night Training, I will help the volunteers teach the newest members of the herd the ins and outs of being a therapy horse. Later in the week, I will help Isabelle learn to jump, Tanner to communicate, Austin to gain confidence, Zeke to follow directions, Abbie to overcome disruption of illness in her family and Chase to connect and interact with others.
My responsibilities are many. I must pay attention and listen well to directions. I must mind my manners and be cautious and careful with each student. I must be willing to walk with an unbalanced load, stay calm when a rider is loud and excited, accept the toys and tools used in lessons and learn to understand many different people each day.
I’m a special horse who takes care of some very special people, and the special people take care of me. We learn to forgive, communicate and love together.
When Friday afternoon rolls around, the facility grows quiet and peaceful. There is plenty of room to roam, lots of food and clean fresh water. I enjoy my days off with my pasture mates, reflecting upon the humans we have worked with throughout the week gone by. I’ll be at the gate again Monday morning with my buddies as we all wait to be chosen for a lesson. It’s a good life.
This year, a handful of Moffat County High School graduates are setting out to carry on the family tradition. From business to education, these students plan to follow in the footsteps their parents and in some cases, grandparents and great-grandparents.