by Caitlyn Andrews
May 04, 2016
Equine therapy horses help children with physical, mental or emotional disabilities to become stronger and more able through therapeutic horseback riding. It takes a special kind of horse to be part of a therapy program. They need to be strong and sturdy enough to go through a program that can be physically demanding on the horses, while at the same time being gentle, patient and trustworthy enough to carry their precious cargo. Equine therapy horses at LoveWay Inc., Therapeutic Horseback Riding in Middlebury, IN, are no exception. These are special horses with very important jobs and they deserve some recognition. This month, we're featuring Sam as the May 2016 LoveWay Horse of the Month.
Sam, a 20-year-old stocky Halflinger gelding, has been with LoveWay for a long time. He's been a dependable part of the program since 2005- that's 11 years! He's spent over half of his life as a therapy horse, but before he came to LoveWay he was a plow horse. If you were to see Sam in person the first thing you would notice is his gorgeous, full mane. His mane is so distracting that you might not even see his short tail at first. Sam's tail was docked when he was a plow horse. Though he doesn't have much of a tail, his mane and laid back disposition have made him a favorite horse for students to groom. LoveWay has several Halflingers in the program, but you can always tell Sam apart with his long mane and short tail.
Pictured Above: Sam, a Halflinger gelding at LoveWay Inc. in Middlebury, IN, is a favorite among the therapy horses.
Sam is such a slow, steady horse, that it's almost surprising how much he enjoys trotting. Sam wears front shoes so you can always hear his slow hoof beats when he walks down the aisle in the barn. The staff can tell it's him walking just by the sound. He's such a slow walker that when he goes trail riding he's always last in line and the group often has to stop to let him catch up when he starts lagging behind. Once he gets trotting though, he doesn't want to stop. He's the perfect horse for beginner students to learn to trot on because his trot is so smooth. He's stocky, consistent and gentle. LoveWay staff refer to him as a "Steady Eddie" who's been around the block. He's the one you can trust to carry anyone, regardless of skill level.
Pictured Above: Sam is no stranger to a paint brush. Sometimes students get to enjoy painting the horses as part of their therapy. Sam loves the attention.
It's not just his pretty mane that makes him a favorite at LoveWay. His mellow disposition and smooth gaits make him perfect for riders with certain disabilities. For example, a student with multiple sclerosis (MS) has been doing great on him because his gentle gaits make him the perfect fit for her. Another girl was terrified of riding before she met Sam. She learned to trust Sam and loves riding now because of him. Sam is the perfect horse for nervous students because he has a way of making them feel secure. His comfortable trot also makes him great for students that want to experience the trot but aren't ready, or are physically unable, to post (a rider posts by rising from the saddle in time with the horse's gait).
No horse would be complete without their own quirks. Sam is no exception. Though he prefers to move slow, he does have some 'go' in him. Sometimes, especially when it's nice out, Sam won't want to go in the barn and won't let the volunteers catch him in his field. One time, he got loose and instead of being his typical, slow self like RJ Arndt, the Equine Manager at LoveWay, expected, he bolted. He ran around the farm for awhile before allowing himself to be caught. Another thing that makes him bolt is when a saddle slips onto his tummy. He's a round guy so his withers don't hold his saddle in place very well on their own. The staff uses a breast collar on him to keep his saddle where it should be. As long as he's wearing a breast collar the saddle slipping isn't a problem.
Pictured Above: Sam shows off his personality and beautiful mane during our photo session.
Sam also has likes to play with his lips when he's bored. When he's on the cross ties he flaps his gums and makes silly faces. Of course, the kids love that! Another little quirk about Sam- even though he does great with other horses, he doesn't know what to think about Merryweather, LoveWay's mini donkey. Having Merryweather behind him on the trails is the only way to have Sam keep up with the trail riding group. He doesn't want to fall behind when Merryweather is walking in the back!
The LoveWay staff, volunteers, and students all love Sam. They want him to stay in the program for as long as he can, so the staff are taking extra care of him now to keep him healthy. Though he hasn't really shown signs of slowing down, Sam is 20 now so the staff isn't having him carry the heavier riders anymore. Just to be safe, they also have him on an MSM supplement to protect his joints. He has a high pain tolerance so the staff has to keep an eye on him to make sure he isn't hiding signs of being in pain. Luckily for everyone, Sam is still happy and healthy. Just like he has for the past 11 years, Sam will continue to help his students grow and make an impact in their lives. After all, he is the ideal therapy horse.
UPDATE: Sadly, Sam passed away on March 20, 2017, from colic at the age of 20. A memorial service was held at LoveWay in Sam's honor. Sam touched many lives in his time as a therapy horse and he was loved by many. He will truly be missed.
by Caitlyn Andrews
August 29, 2018
by Caitlyn Andrews
April 02, 2018
At VPSI, we're proud to be able to sponsor the therapy horses at LoveWay. LoveWay is an equine assisted therapy nonprofit in Middlebury, Indiana. The nonprofit is well-known in the community for helping children with disabilities through their therapy classes.We've featured many of the special horses at LoveWay in the past. This time, we're putting the spotlight on a horse and rider pair: Gus and Suzanne...
by Caitlyn Andrews
January 16, 2018
Not every horse can become a therapy horse. Some horses that enter the LoveWay program don't end up staying for long. It takes a special kind of horse to be a great equine-assisted therapy horse.
Rupert is one such horse