Therapy Minis

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Aug 9, 2005
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Does anyone have a mini that's a certified therapy animal? With what therapy society? Any tips for someone who wants to get their mini certified to do therapy work? Experiences you'd like to share? Also, anyone know where to get those little tennis shoes the seeing eye minis wear?
Ya, the filly I was told i was buying was sold to a lady that wanted her for therapy... in like a riding one... But i don't know what she uses or anything, just that they are boomproof... But she already works there, and they were looking for a therapy mini.
Platinum_Equestrian said:
Does anyone have a mini that's a certified therapy animal? With what therapy society? Any tips for someone who wants to get their mini certified to do therapy work? Experiences you'd like to share? Also, anyone know where to get those little tennis shoes the seeing eye minis wear?

Our 33.5" mini Mercy is Delta Society certified - I had to pass a written test (open book at home) and then we had to meet with an evaluator who grilled Mercy and I with a series of challenges she might meet in therapy situations - overenthusiastic people coming up and pulling her forelock up or peeking under her tail or belly... being brushed and hugged and kissed and petted, being gently "bumped" by a "rude" lady who ended up screaming at me (they test your nerves of steel as well and how you react off the cuff), rustled bags, push carts around her, showed her a real therapy dog (who was scared of her) and the best was "the meatloaf" argument - two ladies got into a screaming match in front of Mercy... she yawned at them and that made all present laugh. Our evaluator was tough too... no pooping allowed inside or she would be excused from testing. Mercy hates pooping anywhere except in her trailer so we were good there. I have owned her 11 years and know when she has to go so we go right to the trailer when she gets wiggly or starts nipping my arm (she is not a biter but when she has a need, I get a very tiny nip from her). She is most careful of her residents and school kids that she visits.

I don't bother with the tennis shoes - I don't pay the price they want for a single shoe for a pair of any kind of shoe for me and horses need 4!. Vetrap or duct tape works well on the feet and you can change the colors with visits or the holidays and residents of nursing homes LOVE it! Mercy and Connie have not slipped on a floor yet with the tape and we have used it for years. (Mercy is celebrating 10 years of volunteer service visits this year.)

Halter obstacle training is a good introduction to therapy work - many times I have used pivots on a vocal command to keep feet safe when people crowd on top of us, used the backing up out of a tight space skill in a patient's room to go up to a patient's bed and then to get out and being able to stand still without being impatient or spooky helps too. Mercy has been bomb proof with sirens and helicopters landing near her.

The only thing we do not allow is feeding her - she will literally climb in laps, or on couches for food. If folks want to treat her and have snacks, we explain the situation and bring the carrots home in a doggie bag (horsie bag?!) so she can share with her friends at home.

Good luck... it is my favorite thing that I do with my minis.


Silversong Farm
well....i do know the farm i go to has a mini named beau that we use very often for therapy rides. he can also detect sesures(sp?)
Denise, Thanks for sharing your experiences. It's all very exciting. Gemini and I will be testing with Delta Society. I'm getting ready to send away for the study materials. Do you have any information you could forward that may be helpful with the process? What are the "rules" about therapy horses, as far as where they can go? Do they have "therapy animal in training" badge or anything for verification before testing like they have for service dogs? Specifically, what organizations have you taken Mercy to visit? Does Delta Society find you "assignments" or do you contact the organizations you'd like to work with? Have you taken him to see any hospice patients?

So you use a horse trailer? I have an SUV and was hoping to transport him in it, since our trailer is huge (for our warmbloods) and it wouldn't be practical to drive it around. He goes up steps, ramps, will jump off anything with no problem, so hoping it's not an issue. I'll need to find a ramp though.

My personal e-mail is [email protected]

Hi Angela!

Mercy's visits are listed to be as "Predictable" on her certificate and she has a green card (higher level of accomplishment earns a different color, from what I remember). That is determined by the evaluator.

I do not think there is a "Therapy Horse in Training" label that any group puts on their trainees. I follow rules of cleanliness - Mercy is bathed and groomed before visiting and her hooves are wrapped in Vetrap and we follow the lead of our nursing home guides. I like having a guide so the residents are comfortable as well with a familiar face (see below on At my request...).

Before Mercy was certified, we offered her services to schools and libraries, civic events and parades, open houses and sidewalk sales, free of charge (and we still volunteer - have been doing it for 10 years). Some folks said yes, others said no but then called us back a year later to have Mercy and her foal visit for a talk. She has been bomb proof to a fault - the helicopter landing and taking off near her blew me away. She could care less! We hope to add hospice patients to our resume...between work and the farm and my family there is not enough hours in a day to visit everyone - I wish there were but my work helps to pay for the gas and the horses so we can visit our nursing home friends.

She travels by small horse trailer now but back in the early days, I would take the backseat out of my Cherokee and she would load in there, jumping in like a big dog. It is not something I recommend for shipping unless you have a really, really, REALLY bombproof horse - age has made me much more cautious these days although Mercy was ALWAYS very excited to load and go by car for the radio, endless treats buried in her hay and the air conditioning.
Of all my minis, only Mercy and the two dwarves I have were safe enough to travel by car.

At my request, we have a staff member of the nursing home(s) accompany us as we visit the residents and we let the residents make the call as to how close they want to be. For many residents, it is one sense of control they have over a life that may seem out of control with others taking charge. If they don't want to see Mercy (and this happens rarely), we tell them it is OK and that we hope they are having a great day, with a big smile.

The halter obstacle training is my favorite way to train a therapy horse - the unusual obstacles sometimes seen, the ability to move on command and in the right direction without being touched is a plus and the case of show nerves a handler gets will show how the horse reacts if a handler is nervous coupled with weird obstacles. I have been working with Mercy so long now that we read each other very well... right down to when she needs to use the trailer.

Our Independence is next in line for training - her tiny size, friendliness and calm nature says the stuff is there to develop for someone to follow in Mercy's hoofprints. Mercy's daughter Connie (a dwarf) also excelled in therapy work - she is not yet certified but she has mileage from this past year and she has gone to live with a friend of mine interested in pursuing therapy work. She will teach my friend well!

Best wishes to you and Gemini - my personal email is [email protected] if you have other questions!


Silversong Farm

home to triple AMHR Hall of Fame recipient and Animal Planet "star",

Haligonian Mercy Bo Cool
I'm VERY interested too! Could you give us the address/ph # for the Delta Society. Not sure if it's only in your area or Nationwide? Nothing like it in Canada that I know of. I'd like to contact them for more info. Thanks so much!!

Great post! I knew a bit about therapy work with horses from previous experience with a theraputic riding group and a lot of reading, but I learned a lot from this thread. Thanks!

Good for you! We're planning to do that also with our darling little Shortcake..she is such a calm loving sweet girl..

we plan to buy dog boots off Ebay for her feet as they have rubber or leather soles which prevent slipping..good luck, Maxine

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