Meet the Horses
The original four horses in our herd were all transplanted from California to middle Tennessee in November of 2011. Their stories are highlighted below.
After the loss of our beloved thoroughbred due to colic and being introduced to carriage driving by a dear friend, we embarked upon looking for a horse that could help us enter this equestrian activity.
As a result, we purchased Makayla from a Welsh Cob breeder, Goldhills, in central California. She is a section D Welsh Cob.
She was the first horse in our herd to start our equestrian therapeutic activities in the area of carriage driving. She started by carriage driving and eventually competed in the Special Olympics and local county fairs under saddle an in carriage.
She has helped our students win many ribbons.
Carriage driving under normal circumstances is a two-handed activity. However, we had a student that only has the use of one hand. We crafted special reins to direct the horse using only one hand. Makayla while new to carriage driving was able to take direction from this alteration for the reins and drove in both horse shows for individuals with disabilities and county fairs.
After a few years of driving and riding Makayla, this student requested at the morning of a Special Olympics horse show that she wanted to ride in this event without the aid of a side-walker. Not having prepared for this kind of independent riding a family meeting ensued to discuss the considerations. All agreed she was ready. After uncoupling the lead line at the gate of the event, we stood by watching this special horse take care of our precious student. Makayla took such good care of her rider and brought her two blue ribbons.
Cash is a gentle giant. He is a Percheron-paint mix whose color has changed over time from a classic Paint horse to almost completely white. Cash has the sweetest disposition. He is calm, gentle and very affectionate.
A friend told us about Cash. He was targeted for possible destruction at a local horse ranch because he couldn’t work. He had been suffering from a terrible injury that left a huge scar on his chest. The injury hadn’t healed and whatever happened during this accident temporarily damaged his confidence. We purchased him to save his life. It took several years but we’ve been able to recondition him back to full health!
If Cash hears anyone in the barn, his nose will be the first one poking out to get some attention, or better yet a carrot.
Mic is from the same breeder as his half sister, Makayla. He too was from the Goldhills Welsh Breeders.
This horse has done it all. At a very young age he won the distinguished award as the Supreme Champion of the Welsh Pony & Cob Society of America. He was trained by an accomplished dressage trainer and won first and second place ribbons in his first year of training competitions. He has been ridden both English and Western, on trails around cattle and wildlife and on the beach. He has driven carriages in horse shows and parades. He has done some jumping too.
While we have not used Mic in our programs yet, given his sensitivities to reading people, we believe he will be suitable for ground work for individuals unlikely to ride and carriage driving.
Mic loves to have his chin rubbed and enjoys a carrot or horse cookie at every opportunity.
Ponies are known for being stubborn but she has a proven track record of staying calm under otherwise stressful circumstances. One of her first riders had an extended period of adjusting to riding and Tootsie remained calm and did her job.
Tootsie is a mixed-Shetland pony who was loaned to Spirit Oaks Ranch by a friend and carriage driving trainer. This pony had been left by a boarder who didn’t pay her bill. The trainer believed Tootsie would be a suitable steed for a young student who had the desire to move from carriage driving to horseback riding after healing from a surgery on her leg that left her unable to straddle a horse for a time. The horse she was driving at the time was too large for her and Tootsie was just the right size.
This young girl rode Tootsie for a number of years and competed at special needs events. Before we knew it she outgrew Tootsie and moved up to the horse she formerly drove. Since every horse needs a job, we informed the trainer that loaned her to us that she could be returned or sold. She didn’t want her back so we embarked on trying to find her a suitable home.
As a result a local trainer asked to borrow her for a week to try her out for two different families for a possible surprise Christmas gift. After only a few days the trainer called and said she couldn’t do the most basic things with Tootsie and therefore could not sell her for us.
We were amazed as she had been so good with our students. Maybe Tootsie didn’t want to leave the herd and her good life at Spirit Oaks Ranch. Against our better judgment and encouragement of her former rider, we were urged to teach this then 25 year old pony who never drove a cart to do this activity.
What normally takes several months to introduce a horse to driving, Tootsie adapted to pulling a cart in about two weeks. So there you have it, when asked why we didn’t try to retool this lovely little horse before trying to sell her, we said she was too old to learn this skill. And she proved us wrong, thankfully!
Tootsie is our sentry horse. Whenever she hears human activity nickers in the hopes of a horse cookie.