How My Senior Horse Makes a Difference

Home » Blog » Articles

This year the theme of our annual Northwest Horse Source Senior Horse Essay Contest was “How My Senior Horse Makes a Difference.” We had some very strong entries that showed us the value of a number of senior horses in our midst. Surprisingly, we didn’t have any youth entries, so I chose two winners in the adult category.

As usual, it’s very difficult to choose a winner. All the entries expressed so much love and appreciation for their older friends. How can we choose? In the end, I chose the ones that I felt followed the submission guidelines the closest, had the best writing, and also told a story of horses doing exceptional work in their communities. Thank you to all who entered! ~ NW Horse Source Editor Kim Roe


Sir Brings Smiles to All Ages in Role as Therapy Horse

By Kelsy Hartmann, Barn Manager, Animals as Natural Therapy

Have you ever met a horse who acts like a puppy? Our horse, Sir, knows how to get the attention and adoration that every horse his age deserves.

Photo from Animals as Natural Therapy

When you greet Sir, you will first encounter the sweetest face, either bopping up and down or twisting side to side—his trademark way of simultaneously begging for a treat and saying he’s happy to see you. His ears will be pricked towards you with his eyes big and expecting something good. You would then be greeted with some drool (since he’s always anticipating his next meal or a treat) and his face comes close to yours to give you a kiss. Next he’ll turn around and very slowly and carefully back towards you, which is an invitation to give him some butt scratches. He’s sure to tell you how much he loves it by nodding his head in approval.

Sir is a Tennessee Walking Horse that has aged gracefully to 29 years old. He resides at Animals as Natural Therapy (ANT), a non-profit animal therapy farm in Bellingham, Washington. He has been officially retired from the riding portion of our program for several years now due to some arthritis in his stifles, but that has hardly slowed him down from being a willing and active participant in the majority of the work we do in our community.

One of the big parts of ANT’s work in our surrounding community is our visits to elder-care facilities. Sir has been to many nursing homes and hospice visits, especially during COVID. We have found that many elders are so excited (and shocked!) to see a horse walking up to their window. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that the staff at the care facility have never seen a resident smile since they’ve arrived but now have the most joyous smile as Sir leaves them a slobbery smear on their window.

Photo from Animals as Natural Therapy

Sir also is able to teach our youth and veterans with groundwork sessions at the farm. He is an anxious horse, especially with some of the moodier mares. He tends to teach participants lessons about empathy, leadership, and self-care. We have our after-school group participants fill out goal sheets and then tell their horse what their goals are for the quarter. When Sir’s participant tells him their goals, Sir is intent and focused and is sure to nod approval and lick and chew for feedback.

I have never seen anyone walk away from Sir without slobber somewhere on their person, maybe a little dirt on their hands, and a huge, beaming smile across their face.

For more information about Animals as Natural Therapy visit



Special Mare Bunny Comforts the Dying, Abused, and Veterans

By Tammy Harty, LPC, Central Oregon Wellness Ranch

Photo from Tammy Harty

Today I delivered a friend’s dying wish. My friend Joyce was in her last days of her battle with brain cancer. It was her request to be in the presence of a horse one last time. Yet, she was under Hospice care, unable to leave the house and too weak get out of her bed. It seemed like an impossible task to honor her dying wish.

I am a mental health therapist and practice equine assisted psychotherapy and have watched miracles unfold through partnerships with horses. I knew my mare Bunny was up to this task. So, we booted up and hauled into the subdivision where Joyce lived. Bunny marched right over to her house and up the stairs onto the deck. Yes, the horse was at the front door and stepped over the threshold. Into the house we went, through the kitchen, and Bunny made a beeline for Joyce. They had a wonderful visit and Joyce got to spend some time in her final days with her equine friend. I was honored to be a part of this special life event.

At age 22, this is Bunny’s second career. Bunny went from an amazing performance career that included cowboy mounted shooting, mountain trail, cutting, reining, reined cow horse, ranch horse versatility and high levels of natural horsemanship including liberty and bridleless exhibitions to Extreme Cowboy Race Champion.

Now a therapy horse, Bunny serves as an amazing teacher to abused women and children, trauma survivors and veterans and has been known to do an occasional in-home Hospice visit.

This incredible mare supported me through some extremely stressful times as I dealt with domestic violence. She inspired me to help others through their trauma via equine therapy. Bunny has been a faithful teacher and stress reliever for a number of survivors of sexual assault as well as children that were molested and survivors of domestic violence.

This little 14-hand Quarter horse mare is also the lead horse for Mustang Boot Camp for Veterans. Bunny is the matriarch of the herd and shares a home on the Wellness Through Horses Ranch and the Central Oregon Wellness Ranch non-profit with 10 other therapy horses just outside of Bend.


See this article in the December 2021 online edition:

December 2021

Thank you for supporting the businesses that support The Northwest Horse Source

This content sponsored by:
This content sponsored by:
This content sponsored by:

Leave a Comment

Join the conversation:

Select a list(s):

Check out the Magazine!

The Northwest Horse Source Magazine