Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding
I am nominating our POA/Haflinger cross mare Sally for the Platinum Performance Horse Welfare Award because she is our oldest, and most gentle, patient, and reliable pony here at CTR.
Sally came to us as a donation from a family who could no longer ride or care for her due to the deaths of several individuals. She from the first appeared interested and inquisitive when it came to working with our rider population--children and adults who live with disabilities and diagnoses. Approaching each person she interacts with, with tolerance and acceptance, she takes them at face value and treats them just like she would any other person. She is gentle, quiet, and good-natured with them and really excels in unmounted work with our older veterans and our very youngest children who live with disabilities. She seems to have a knack for intuitively knowing how to move or not move around people who have physical disability--sometimes providing just a steady shoulder for them to lean and arm on while they groom her, or a strong flank to rest against when the physical exertion of moving feels a little to hard for them.
One of our veterans from the Medical Foster Home program of the VA at Perry Point came to work with Sally at CTR a few years ago--and he arrived without the willingness and ability to speak to any of the staff as they walked him through an unmounted series of lessons regarding basic herd care. But he listened, and learned how to pick up the curry comb, and use it in circles around her soft fur. He wasn't able to stand for long periods of time due to advanced arthritis in his legs, and the arthritis in his arms made it hard to grasp a lot of the grooming tools, so it took him longer to complete each task. But we set him up with a chair near-by that he could sit in to rest and let him take all the time he needed. And Sally did to. She stood close to him, careful not to knock him over, and nuzzled him occasionally with her muzzle when he needed to rest. He came back consistently each week, and then he began to open up--to Sally (not staff) and told her his story. Told her all about himself, and his life. The VA staff who transported and attended with him pulled CTR staff aside to show them how he was talking to Sally, saying "I've never seen him do this before, anywhere." And after a few more weeks of conversation with Sally, he began to speak with CTR staff too.
Sally's impact as an adaptive recreation therapy horse over the course of her career here at CTR isn't limited to just this one disabled veteran. She's helped thousands of people who live with diagnoses and disabilities learn how to live and heal and grow, and she's been a part of everything we've done here. She is an incredible horse, and incredible steward of the program, and a wonderful friend.
Relationship of Nominator to Nominee
I am the program director for Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding, so I work with Sally in her role as an adaptive riding therapy horse on an almost daily basis. -- Katharine Santiff (Program Director)