February 2016 LoveWay Horse of the Month: Josie

by Caitlyn Andrews February 05, 2016

February 2016 LoveWay Featured Horse of the Month: Josie

Each month, we feature a therapy horse at LoveWay Inc., a non-profit equine assisted therapy riding center. The LoveWay Horse of the Month for February is Josie. Josie just retired last month. She has already left for her new home, but she still deserves her time in the spotlight!  She made quite the impact during her time as a therapy horse.

About Josie

Josie is a 22-year-old, bay Quarter Horse mare. She joined LoveWay, a non-profit therapeutic riding center in Middlebury, IN, in July 2008. Before LoveWay Josie lived out West as a ranch horse. This means that Josie was well trained, already loved trail riding, and was mostly a "plug-and-go" horse. "Plug-and-go" horses are the ones that easily fit into the program without much additional training. They're basically ready to go to work from the start! Josie required a little desensitization training but slipped into therapy work easily. Josie has two brands, Rocking J and 202, from her previous life that set her apart from the other horses at LoveWay.

LoveWay Therapeutic Riding Horse Josie

If you look closely you can see Josie's "202" brand beneath her winter coat.

Josie's Retirement

Josie was a therapy horse for LoveWay for 7 years before she retired at the end of January this year. The LoveWay staff had noticed signs from Josie lately that it was time for her to retire. Josie had been shying more than usual and it seemed her ulcers were bothering her again. Josie has always had problems with ulcers, but she had gotten to the point where she wasn't comfortable in classes anymore. The staff knew it was time for her to move on to a more relaxing environment.

Chris Stice, the assistant program manager and PATH certified instructor at LoveWay, says that Josie is one of her favorite horses and she is very happy about Josie's retirement home. Josie is now living with a LoveWay volunteer who fell in love with her. Chris said she was lucky enough to witness a moment of trust between Josie and the volunteer one day. The volunteer kissed Josie on the nose and instead of shying away Josie leaned in to get her kiss. She knows that Josie is moving on to her perfect home.

Josie at LoveWay Middlebury
Josie prefers the outdoors to being in her stall.

Here she is enjoying the unusually mild Indiana winter.

 Overcoming a Difficult Past

If you've been around horses then you've probably kissed a horse muzzle or two yourself. You're probably thinking it's not a big deal. However, it was a big deal for Josie. Even though she made a wonderful therapy horse, Josie was abused in her past and has difficulty trusting people. The LoveWay staff don't know specifics of Josie's abuse, they've just seen the aftermath. There have been many signs. After all her time at LoveWay, Josie still had moments where she was nervous about people touching her ears or flinched when the saddle was put on. She prefers women to men, another indicator of her abusive history. Even with her past, Josie is still a sweet horse and a camp favorite. She just prefers quiet, slow movements around her. 

There is a silver lining to Josie's sad story. It makes her a perfect match for students at LoveWay who have experienced abuse themselves. Children with a history of abuse have been able to bond with Josie over their mutual past and her need for people to be gentle with her. The children are able to relate to her. Josie has also been able to help students that are lacking in confidence build their own courage.

It's often difficult for a horse to overcome a history of abuse. What makes Josie so special is that not only has she overcome an abusive past, but through LoveWay's therapy program she has become an inspiration to children struggling to overcome their own experiences.

Therapeutic Riding Takes All Kinds of Horses

Every horse that joins the LoveWay staff brings something unique to the program. Just as Josie was a good match for children who had been abused, the other horses at LoveWay pair well with students of certain needs. Honey, for example, is the perfect fit for a girl with Rett Syndrome because of her personality, broad back and rhythmic gait. Next month we'll be featuring a horse that has been a great fit for children with autism.

When a horse retires from the LoveWay therapy program it's always bittersweet. Josie has gone to a great home, but there can never be another Josie to take her place. Fortunately, LoveWay has a stable full of unique therapy horses. The LoveWay staff always do their best to pair each student with the horse that fits them and their needs. There's no telling what the next horse to join the LoveWay team will bring to the table or whose lives it will touch.

How to Help LoveWay

If you want to help an organization that is making a real impact in children's lives, then look no further than LoveWay. As a non-profit organization, LoveWay is always in need of donations and volunteers. Contact LoveWay today to see how you can help!

Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews


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