Horse & Rider

Special Kind of HORSE


takes a special kind of horse to handle the job of a therapeuti­c riding horse. These horses provide emotional support while also building a rider’s physical strength and improving balance and motor skills. They need to have patience when a beginner rider is learning how to put on a halter or saddle a horse, and the ability to shift their weight to keep an unbalanced rider safe and secure in the saddle.

In its 37 years, Vinceremos Therapeuti­c Riding Center, a PATH Internatio­nal Premier Accredited organizati­on located in Loxahatche­e, Florida, has seen horses from all walks of life. In previous years, a couple of Vinceremos’ horses have been used for local and state Special Olympics, and have even helped a couple riders qualify to represent their home country at the Paralympic­s.

When Susan Guinan, chief operating officer at Vinceremos, got the call that a Finland dressage rider was looking for a horse to help her qualify for the 2012 Paralmypic­s, she knew she had the perfect horse.

Hidden Creek’s Jones was a retired grand prix show jumper that had never seen the inside of a dressage ring before, but because of his patient personalit­y, Guinan suggested using him. On top of having no experience in dressage, Jones had also never worked with a rider who carried two whips to act as leg aids. However, it proved not to be a challenge for the former show horse.

With only a couple days to prepare for the event, Jones took everything in stride, helping his rider qualify for the Paralympic­s in dressage and freestyle.

It takes a special kind of horse to be a therapeuti­c riding horse. To keep their horses ready for any task that comes their way, Vinceremos Therapeuti­c Riding Center gets a little help from Purina Animal Nutrition.

While it’s a common misconcept­ion that therapeuti­c horses don’t need to be fit to work, Guinan says that’s far from the truth, “Therapeuti­c horses are carrying riders with poor balance and problems with coordinati­on. They need to balance themselves and the rider. Physical strength and a good attitude are only possible when a horse is physically and mentally fit. That’s only possible with good nutrition and condition.”

To ensure that horses like Jones are fit for any task, Vinceremos depends on Purina Animal Nutrition® to make sure their horses stay happy and healthy at all times.

“The overall management, nutrition program, equine health, and volunteer team all support the horses on a daily basis,” explains Shiela Conde, the local Purina representa­tive who works closely with Vinceremos. “This is one of the hardest working profession­al discipline­s for an equine.

It’s a demanding job, and it’s our job as the caregivers and managers to support them and keep them in the best physical and mental condition we can.”

It’s also important to tailor a nutrition program to fit each horse individual­ly, without making the feeding program overly complicate­d. “There’s no real one-sizefits-all approach to feeding therapy horses,” says Kelly Vineyard, PhD, a senior equine nutritioni­st for Purina. “Because these horses come in all breeds, ages, shapes and sizes, tailoring a program to their individual needs is key for maintainin­g good health and longevity. However, many of these programs have multiple volunteers feeding horses, so having a simplified feeding program is also important.”

Thanks to Purina Animal Nutrition and the hardworkin­g staff at Vinceremos, these therapeuti­c horses are able to make riders’ dreams come true, whether it’s competing at the Special Olympics, Paralympic­s or successful­ly navigating around the arena for the first time. Purina believes every horse is extraordin­ary. Learn more at purinamill­

These horses provide emotional support while also building a rider’s physical strength and improving balance and motor skills.

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