May 2017 LoveWay Horse of the Month: Niki

by Caitlyn Andrews May 04, 2017

Niki Featured Therapy Horse of the Month

Each month we feature a therapy horse at LoveWay Inc., a non-profit therapeutic riding center in Middlebury, Indiana. As a proud sponsor of the LoveWay horses, we're happy to introduce you to a unique therapy horse named Niki.

Niki is the May 2017 LoveWay Horse of the Month. She looks a bit different than most of the horses you'll find in the program. That's because Niki is a Norwegian Fjord. Though Fjords often make good horses for therapy programs, the breed is uncommon in this area.

The rarity of the breed in this area is the reason Niki was donated. She was purchased by her previous owner to be part of a matching Norwegian Fjord driving team. Her owner was unable to find her a matching partner, so she was donated to LoveWay.

New Therapy Horse Trial Periods

New LoveWay horses are typically brought in for a trial period to determine if they will make a good fit. The trial period lasts about 30 - 60 days. Sometimes the staff feels that a horse will work out if they are given additional time. Niki was one such horse that needed longer than the typical trial period.

"Did you know that the average service life of a therapy horse is 3 1/2 years? This is why it's so important to the LoveWay staff that they don't rush their horses. Lots of horses at LoveWay have been in the program for much longer than the average service life. The staff does their best to prevent mental and physical burn out for the horses."

Norwegian Fjord in Therapy Classes

Niki joined LoveWay in January of 2016. It took about a year of working with her before the staff decided that she was ready to participate in classes. The extra time was worth it. Niki has made a great addition to the program. Since she doesn't look like the other horses she's able to contribute in a special way to the classes.

Cait Wilson, the Equine Manager at LoveWay, uses Niki to help teach students colors. She also says that Niki is great for teaching students how to groom a horse because she sheds so much!

LoveWay Therapy Class with Niki

Above: Cait Wilson leads Niki while she carries a student in an equine assisted therapy class at LoveWay.

Sharon Jones, Program Manager & PATH Certified Instructor, uses different themes for her classes. For example, one week the theme was "courage". Students rode the horses bareback, meaning without a saddle, to demonstrate courage. Sharon likes to use Niki for her diversity theme because the Fjord mare is so unique.

Therapy Class at LoveWay Inc

Above: Approximately half of the classes that Niki participates in at LoveWay are Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) classes. In EAL classes, students spend most of the time working with the horses on the ground instead of riding.

Even the way that Niki moves is unique. She trots in a side-to-side motion, similar to Honey. This can be very beneficial for certain students. Cait likes to describe Niki's walk as lumbering like a bear. She lowers her head and pushes forward. This can be intimidating to some of the volunteers that don't have much horse experience yet. For these reasons, Niki must be paired with students and volunteers carefully. The ones that do get to work with her absolutely love her.

At 11 years old, Niki is one of the youngest horses at LoveWay. She doesn't have the same maintenance and health issues that some of the older horses have. However, she does require a low-starch feed to keep her healthy. Fortunately for LoveWay, Jack's Feed Shack in Bristol carries the Cool Command low-starch feed that Niki loves.

About Jack's Feed Shack

Jessica Watson runs Jack's Feed Shack, a family business that was opened by her father 9 years ago. The company has been involved with LoveWay for the majority of that time. Both Jessica and her mom used to volunteer at LoveWay, so the program is special to her.

Jacks Feed Shack in Bristol

Jack's Feed Shack is located at:

303 S Division St
Bristol, Indiana.

The folks at Jack's Feed Shack are very involved with their community. They often host raffles and fundraisers to support organizations they're involved with, such as LoveWay and the Bristol Homecoming. Jessica is also a part of the Bristol Lions Club.

Jessica keeps busy, but she's never too busy to get to know the people that come into Jack's Feed Shack. She loves the small town community feel and getting to work with her family. If you were to stop in you might get to meet the entire Jack's Feed Shack family, including the two "shack cats" that get to hang out in the store.

The staff at LoveWay are grateful for the continued support of Jack's Feed Shack.

Follow Jack's Feed Shack on Facebook for their upcoming open house announcement!

Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews


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