I am honored to nominate Ozzie, an incredible older gentleman who has served in our therapeutic riding program since March of 2017. Ozzie is a beautiful copper chestnut who had been a jumper in his younger years, and who came out of retirement to start a new career as a therapy horse. As an older horse, he has his share of challenges, but that doesn't stop him from putting his heart into every step he takes to serve our riders, young and old, to make sure they get his very best.
Here in the Mid-South, the heat and humidity is a struggle, especially for a horse like Ozzie with Cushing's disease. He is routinely clipped to ensure he can stay cool in the summer, and received supplements daily to offset the effects of his PPID. But Ozzie is not the type of horse to let that get in the way of doing his very best.
I can say that most therapy horses are amazing. They need to be to handle the rigors of the job they do, and they are all worthy of a Horse Welfare nomination. However; Ozzie is one of those horses who defines the work we do, and he is a horse you will never forget.
He is gentle, forgiving, kind, and incredibly intuitive to exactly what each different participant needs. Without assistance or horse leader prompting, he will automatically walk slower if the rider is unbalanced or timid. He can also 'bring it' for a more independent rider with a beautiful working walk and soft floating trot. Ozzie is used for therapeutic horseback riding, horsemanship and our ground program, recreation therapy, Hippotherapy and Equine Services for Heroes. His age does not stop him. In fact, he has incredible stamina inside and outside of the ring, and kicks up his heels in his pasture (often outrunning the younger fellows!). He truly loves his life as a therapy horse.
The best testimonial of the impact this horse makes on all the lives he touches is the story of one of his veteran participants. Curt was referred to our Equine Services for Heroes Program through the Memphis VA Medical Center. Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, Lewy Body Syndrome, and dementia, this 77 year old veteran has a new zest for life, thanks to "his" therapy horse, Ozzie:
"In every other part of his life, Curt is unsure, confused and/or anxious . . . but when he is with Ozzie, it's a different story. He has confidence, peace, and grace again.
He has physically grown into doing things that I would not have thought possible. He brushes Ozzie, helps pick his hooves, leads him and gives voice commands with total confidence (an important exercise for people with Parkinson's).
Parkinson's can make it difficult to express emotions, especially in the moment, yet if you talk to him these days the first thing he'll tell you about is Ozzie. Having horse therapy to look forward to has brought Curt deep joy and a sense of pride in himself: something the Parkinson's and dementia has taken big chunks out of. This horse had changed my husband's life in ways that are miraculous."Connie Long, Curt's wife
As the instructor for our veteran program, I have seen Ozzie connect with his participants on a whole new level. In our ground program, we often unclip the horses to build trust, and Ozzie stays with Curt every step of the way. He stops when Curt is getting tired, and gently lowers his head so Curt can stroke his neck. It is incredible to witness the kindness and courtesy that this horse provides to Curt - as well as the other individuals with disabilities that he serves.
It would be wonderful for Ozzie to receive a Platinum Performance® Horse Welfare Award to keep him at the top of his game so he can continue to change lives. He truly is one in a million, and is deserving beyond words.
Thank you for your consideration, and for generously supporting our equine partners in such a wonderful way!Relationship of Nominator to Nominee
As the Executive Director of Southern Reins Center for Equine Therapy, I have known Ozzie since his first day of trial to join our therapeutic riding program. He was owned by Olympic Gold Medalist Melanie Smith Taylor, and is on loan to our program to support our participants with disabilities and hardship. -- Jill Haag