The Stars of Transitions EAAT are, of course, our horses. Each is a character with a personality all their own. Some of the horses we have are Program horses (meaning that they work directly with our clients) while others are boarded here (meaning that they have owners who come and take care of them) and still others are retirees (meaning that they are older or have been rescued and have injuries that prohibit them from doing anything but living a life of leisure). ALL of them are enjoyed by those who visit us because they are beautiful animals and, whether they are working or grazing or playing with each other, their personality shines!
Below you’ll find photos of the horses at our barn. As you look at them keep in mind a few things:
- We treat each and every horse as if they are superstars because, to us, they are.
- Program horses are only allowed to work 2 hours a day – MAXIMUM. The reason is because therapeutic lessons (whether ground work our on horse back) is mentally, physically and emotionally taxing. We want our boys and girls to be relaxed, healthy and happy.
- Horses are athletes. That’s what they are. They are HUGE animals. Our smallest pony is Sam and he weighs nearly 900 pounds. To keep the muscle tone they need to be the athletes they are we feed them top quality hay and, yes, nutritional supplements. Some of them need to have specialized medications for joints while others have insect sensitivity and still others are heat sensitive. For this reasons you’ll notice that each of our stars have a fan they can sleep under, LOTS of water, LOTS of hay to munch on, fly masks (if they need them), fly spray (non-toxic – it just keeps the pesky insects away) and more.
- You know how your fingernails grow and you have to trim them? Well, horses hooves are, basically, fingernails and they have to be trimmed. Their feet are cared for by a Farrier (a person specially trained on the care of horse feet) because some of them have to have horseshoes while others don’t.
- Last thing: Wild horses live about 14 years. The horses we have (because we treat them like family and give them medical care, dental care, foot care, nutritional care and they have their own ‘bedrooms’ live, on the average, about 30 years! That’s right – 30 years or more being loved, cared for, played with and, pretty much pampered.
Becoming a Program Horse
Before a horse can become a Program Horse they have to undergo a 90-Day evaluation period:
During these 90 days a horse is allowed to get settled in and to start getting used to the farm and the activity that happens at Transitions EAAT everyday. This is also where the horse begins being evaluated to make certain they will be a good fit for working with our clients. Since they are the true therapists in our program it’s essential they be a good fit for a variety of different clients.
Riders chosen by Dawn Honeycutt work with the horse through both ground work and saddle work. Ground work includes (but isn’t limited to) being brushed, bathed, tacked up and interacting with people and other horses.
Good ground work allows us to determine the problem solving ability of the horse and it gives them time to become confident because they are, by their very nature, attentive, inquisitive and sensitive. Further, ground work allows the horse to ‘see’ the trainers, those who will be riding them and many other details that most of us simply filter out. Finally, good ground works lets our horses become less fearful and more confident – both of which are necessary components of safety.
Saddle work also begins in this second thirty days. Clients come to Transitions EAAT with a number of different needs. Some of our clients have ‘high tone’ (meaning their muscles are very ‘tight’) so when they get on a horse it needs to know the difference between a ‘squeeze to go’ and ‘squeeze that’s just a squeeze.’ Other clients have uncontrollable verbal outbursts that are loud. A good therapy horse must be able to ignore a loud voice coming from above their heads and on their backs and still be able to listen to the commands given to them by those in charge. Still other clients have stability issues and some horses are just more ‘bumpy’ when being ridden. There’s nothing wrong with being a ‘bumpy-riding’ horse and nothing better about being a ‘smooth-riding’ horse – we just need to know which horse gives what type of ride so they can be paired so the needs of the client can be met.
All of this and MUCH MORE are done through the 90 day evaluation. Most horses don’t go on to be Program Horses with Transitions EAAT.
This doesn’t mean they are bad horses. Just like some people are better suited to do one thing over another (some are better athletes than scientists, others are better accountants than welders) – doctors and lawyers and teachers and police officers and stay at home parents all have different temperaments and they all serve very, very important roles. Just because a horse doesn’t have what it takes to work with our clients doesn’t mean that it can’t be a wonderful steed to someone who needs a great horse! We NEVER, EVER ‘abandon’ a horse just because it can’t be a part of our program. In fact, before they begin their 90 day evaluation each horse has got to be guaranteed they’ll be allowed to go home or go to someone looking for a horse with it’s talents and abilities.