For the Love of Horses

Erik Arnesen sharing a moment with Chuckles, the serious one

We have all seen stories of dramatic improvements in attitude and mobility credited to therapeutic horseback riding. Riders who may look forward to little else eagerly await their next ride, for love of the horse. But is the feeling mutual? Thanks to animal communicator Kathy George we learned that yes, indeed, it is. Kathy helped us interview several therapeutic riding horses at Thorncroft Therapeutic Horseback Riding, Inc. in Malvern, Pennsylvania, where the horses love the riders and love their jobs, and each has a different reason why.

Thorncroft has 400 students a week, half of whom are therapeutic riding students. They are all ages and sizes and abilities, from small children to grown men. Some can ride independently; others need a lot of assistance. Kathy communicated with each of several horses while she and a Thorncroft instructor, Erik Arnesen, used Equine Touch to help them with physical and emotional body balancing. Instructors Sharon Bennett and Maire Guggenheim introduced and held the horses, and here's what the horses had to say.

Kathy and a very relaxed Arthur

Chuckles is a stocky gray mare who obviously has draft horse genes. Due to her size and broad back she has many therapeutic riders. When Kathy asked Chuckles if she liked her job, an insulted Chuckles replied, "How could I NOT like my job? It is exactly what I should be doing. It is an honor to help all these people."

In contrast to her name, Chuckles takes her job VERY seriously. Kathy recalled that the first time she volunteered to lead Chuckles with a therapeutic rider, Chuckles dismissed Kathy's friendly greeting with the reply, "Not now, this is not the time, this is business." Kathy said, "As I led her there was such pride and such love in her that it brought tears to my eyes. How she feels about her job is indescribable."

Dapples is a gray Thoroughbred mare who raced and foxhunted in her youth. When asked how she likes her work, Dapples said, "It was very overwhelming at first. Sometimes it still overwhelms me emotionally. What I like best is being able to give my riders a window of physical freedom."

Kathy George with Patches, enjoying the Equine Touch TMJ moves

Sir Patches the Great is a very handsome, powerfully-built pinto gelding who used to be a Pony Club mount, and who wanted to know why we were asking him questions. Sharon, who is also an assistant physical therapist at Bryn Mawr
Rehabilitation Hospital, explained that Patches' job includes lessons, and "the hardest therapy work". She said, "These patients have brain injuries and strokes and can be hard on a horse's back. Some don't know which way is 'up', or cannot bear weight on one side, yet he's an angel about this."

Kathy said, "The first time, Patches was actually terrified that they would fall off and get hurt. He didn't know what to do for them." She explained that Patches also takes his job very seriously, and is annoyed if he thinks the human helpers aren't paying enough attention. When asked what he likes about this job, Patches told Kathy, "I like to be in control and to save the disabled people." Sharon wanted to know if he preferred children or adults, and Patches explained that his preference for people is by personality, not by age.

Arthur is a stocky, dark bay gelding who used to be half of a pair of driving horses. His new job includes adult rehabilitation patients, some independent therapy riders, and some regular lesson riders. Arthur said he likes children because "their brains aren't frozen in place like the adults are".

Bruno is a pinto pony gelding who was outstanding at combined driving. Bruno said he likes therapeutic riding, because he likes the kids, because they can hear him. He is the one who tells them they have no limitations and they can do anything. He said, "The adults say that too, but they believe it only partially. But I mean it." Bruno notices that the adults feel sorry for "the smaller ones". He said, "It makes no sense to me; the smaller ones have a stronger will than the adults do. So I just make sure that the smaller ones keep remembering that."

L to R: Maire Guggenheim, Elizabeth Kutz-Yeager (wearing her favorite dress which she wore for her 'Mexican Barbie Birthday'), Lucy Kizuik, and Bruno the pinto pony, who encourages the 'smaller ones'

Bruno said he makes them stronger inside and gives them strength to be bigger. Kathy said, "I believe he means that he helps with their determination to go forward, too." We, the human adults, are the ones that use the word "limitation", and the ones who determine what a limitation is. Bruno's message was that he would like to change our perception of limitations. He ended the conversation with a thought-provoking "So what is a limitation, and in whose eyes is it limiting?"






About the author:
Susan Rifkin Ajamian learned about animal communication nearly ten years ago from her veterinarian. She is a freelance writer who lives in Delaware with her husband and their 21-year-old cat, Cassandra, who has many wise and interesting things to say, as does her 22-year-old horse, Richie. Susan also enjoys using the Equine and Gentle Touch techniques to help her friends and family.