It’s a warm sunny day, the breeze is blowing through your hair, and you feel as if you are flying.
While not many people can say they have experienced that exact feeling, the percentage drops drastically for individuals that are bound to a wheel chair day-in and day-out.
Therapeutic Riding through Equine Assisted Activities is one of the very few ways the disabled can ditch the wheelchair and ride with the wind. And Budas Impressive Zip, a Chestnut Quarter Horse, has changed the lives of many in just that manner.
The horse known as ‘Zippy,” one of twelve horses at the Storm Harbor Equestrian Center, was injured in November and is currently on stall rest.
According to Courtney Gramlich, Storm Harbor Equestrian Center Director, Zippy won’t be fully usable again until summer.
“Zippy received a laceration of both hind legs by jumping the pasture fence for an unknown reason,” Gramlich said. “He has since had a few problems with this injury which required two trips to Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center.”
Gramlich, who has been at SHEC since 2006 and is an alumnus of SRU’s Therapeutic Recreation program, said his leg was in a cast for over three weeks, and now he is being bandaged with a splint. He will continue to be bandaged with the splint for at least another three weeks, and then the bandage will be tapered off.
Zippy receives a bandage change every other day as part of his treatment.
“Bandage changes take approximately 30 minutes from start to finish,” Gramlich said. “On other days he just munches hay all day and gets many visitors bringing him treats, pictures and drawings to put on his stall.”
While age has an effect on recovery time, Gramlich said that she is positive that Zippy will make a full recovery in time.
“[Zippy] is a middle-aged horse of 17, so this does help speed up recovery time,” she said. “It has been a lengthy recovery, and will need many more weeks of bandaging. The injury should not affect him negatively once he is completely healed.”
SHEC’s purpose is to work with people with physical, intellectual, social and emotional disabilities in a therapeutic riding center. The riders learn riding skills while receiving therapeutic benefits.
According to Kelly Sheehan, APA faculty and SHEC instructor, Zippy has helped numerous riders and has many success stories.
“He helped several riders compete at the Pennsylvania Special Olympics competition in 2010,” Sheehan said. “He also helped one of his riders prepare for her time at Special Olympics, during 2012, by allowing her to practice several different skills.”
Sheehan said that Zippy is very clear with his emotions, and therefore has taught several riders to recognize their horse’s emotions.
“This can help them learn to modify their behavior and interpret social cues, both of which transfer easily to interacting with other people,” she said. “Another rider that enjoys spending time with Zippy has benefitted by improving her focus and attention in lessons.”
Zippy is a great therapy horse because of his personality
and his movement, Sheehan said.
“Horses have different ways of moving, and Zippy’s movement pattern provides a lot of sensory stimulation for riders who need that input in order to focus,” she said. “Zippy is a little bouncy when he trots, which helps riders learn to post their trot and learn their diagonals, both of which are attainable, but not introductory, skills. His movement makes learning these skills a little easier for his riders.”
Sheehan said Zippy is a smart horse, and can tell when his rider is not paying attention or confident in their instructions to him.
“By questioning their instructions, he challenges his riders, without reacting in ways that are unsafe,” she said. “This helps them learn to focus and work through challenges that may arise.”
Zippy still has a long road of recovery ahead of him, but frequent visits from his favorite riders certainly help him pass the time.
“Zippy’s stall door is always decorated by stickers, artwork, a short story, and currently, silk flowers from his riders,” Sheehan said.
Zippy enjoys participating in activities when he is healthy including camps and lessons.
Zippy has participated in three local American Quarter Horse Association horseshows, 4-H, and Special Olympics, making him active with three local organizations and numerous youth riders. He has been shown at the All-American Youth Show in Columbus, Ohio and won in the trail class at the Pennsylvania State Horse Show.
According to Sheehan, he seems to especially enjoy preparations for Special Olympics, as he gets to practice some other skills including Showmanship and Obstacle Course patterns.
“Zippy generally perks up when he hears someone bringing him treats,” Sheehan said. “He is always happy to see his girls who rode him in lessons, who tend to bring him treats and keep him company.”