This is Makayla. We purchased Makayla from a Welsh Cob breeder, Goldhills Welsh, in central California. She is a section D Welsh Cob and was the first horse in our herd to start our equestrian therapeutic activities in the area of carriage driving. She is chestnut coloring with a fabulously long mane.
After the loss of our beloved thoroughbred, Clipper, due to colic, Cheryl was introduced to carriage driving by a dear friend, we embarked upon looking for a horse that could help us enter this equestrian activity.
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 and in carriage. She has helped our guests win many ribbons.
Carriage driving under normal circumstances is a two-handed activity. However, we had a guest that only has the use of one hand. We crafted special reins to direct the horse using only one hand. Makayla and her driver drove in both horse shows for individuals with disabilities and county fairs for typical drivers.
After a few years of driving and riding Makayla, this guest 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.
Mic is from the same breeder as his half sister, Makayla. He too was from the Goldhills Welsh. Mic, like his sister, is chestnut color and doesn’t have quite as long of a mane but has a tail as thick as they come.
This horse has done it all. At a very young age Mic 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. Mic loves to have his chin rubbed and enjoys a carrot or horse cookie at every opportunity.
“Best pony ever!” That’s what people say about her. Tootsie is a mixed-Shetland chocolate palomino pony who was loaned to Spirit Oaks Ranch by a friend and carriage driving trainer. Ponies are known for being stubborn but she has a proven track record of staying calm under otherwise stressful circumstances.
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.
Shadow is a majestic black Friesian. He started with us on a free-lease for six months. Not too far into the lease we fell in love with him and wanted to purchase him. His owner loved him too and said he was not for sale. Everyone that entered the barn made their way to this special horse. He is quite large, over 16 hands with a very upright headset and a beautiful head and expression. Despite his immense size, he is as gentle as they come. He not only is a fantastic riding horse he also pulls a carriage. He had done some therapeutic work before coming to our barn and was a natural when it came to therapeutic riding and carriage driving. Our good fortune lead to circumstance where his previous owner agreed to part with him and we were able to purchase him before his lease expired.
Moose is quite a character. He is a sorrel Quarter Horse and has one beautiful blue eye. His demeanor is very calm. Moose is very attached to JR and they bunk next to each other in the barn. They would have it no other way. Moose is very adaptable to riding Western or English. He does his job cheerfully and without any fuss. He is a very good boy.
JR was acquired by Take the Reins through a grant provided by the Nashville Predators Hockey Organization. He is a sorrel Quarter Horse. JR is very sweet and enjoys his job as a therapeutic riding equine. He is gentle, patience and quite a looker to boot.
Dakota and Montana Red are our miniature horses and are too cute not to love. Because of their small stature, they are great during ground lessons with our smaller participants. These two adorable equines are being taught to drive a small cart and can be used in unmounted lessons.
Maggie is the farm’s canine mascot. She is a golden-doodle and is on the larger size. This friendly over-sized pup, entering her teens soon, makes sure that everyone feels welcome as she has appointed herself the greeter of all visitors. Sometimes she’s a bit insistent about getting attention but stays out of the way of the lessons and watches attentively in between classes. She’s never met a stranger and we don’t’ expect that will change.
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