Training a therapy horse is very challenging, but also very rewarding. Some therapy horses come from other riding disciplines, they were successful in their other disciplines, but have retired, or they didn’t enjoy that discipline and are looking for their niche, or they have been bred to become therapy horses. We have had racehorses come to us, we have a pony who was one of the best show jumpers in Zimbabwe, we have a couple of retired broodmares, we have quite a few rescue horses, and all our riding school ponies are used in our Therapeutic Program. All of these ponies are just remarkably amazing at their new job, but we have never had any like our cremellos. These boys came from a stud in the Drakensburg, South Africa, very kindly donated by Dr Pete Dommett. Swathi very kindly donated the money to transport them from Waterford Stud to Healing with Horses Therapeutic Centre in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Three of the four, in a span of three weeks, were brought in from the mountains having never been touched by humans, they were gelded, halter trained, and put in a big transporter to start their long journey to Zimbabwe. The fourth, Moonlight, had done a bit of work on the Stud as a cattle pony.
They broke their journey in Johannesburg, where the transporter very kindly put them up for a few days.
From Johannesburg they continued their journey to Bulawayo, where they arrived on the 28 February 2015, to a very emotional welcome committee!
The first few weeks were just spent settling in. They were very scared of us, but settled into the stable yard very well, and straight away showed this amazing calmness and acceptability of life as it was. I have never experienced this to such an extreme in any other horse, but all four if them have it. Enough calmness to soothe the most flighty soul. Right from the beginning THERAPY PONY reflected out of their eyes.
They had a lot of firsts in this time:
First time eating grain, they didn’t know what it was, we had to encourage them to eat it! They have no problem with recognising it now!
First time in a stable.
First visit from farrier.
First dip day.
First visit from the dentist.
They had to be socialised with humans:
And then we started their training. Sandy was the main-force behind this, and Jess spent a lot of time with them and was one of the first to sit on them. Aileen has done more than her fair share too!
We started to introduce them to the kids in the program:
And the equipment we use:
We introduced them to the rest of the herd:
Then we brought them into the sessions to get used to the routine and the handlers and side-walkers:
And finally the day all this work has been leading up to, today, 28 January 2016, exactly 11 months after they arrived here in Bulawayo, one of our boys proudly carried one of the KGVI kids on his back in one of our sessions! A proud moment for all of us, thanks to everyone involved in their journey up to this moment, and our special Arthur was the first of the KGVI kids to sit on Moonlight!
Well done Moonlight and Arthur, seen here with Sandy, our Cremello trainer, and Evans, their groom who has been so patient and quiet with them all this time.