Everyone is familiar with therapy dogs, and even cats. But horses? Absolutely.
Delta Society’s Pet Partners program is for many species and Las Vegas now has a certified therapy horse, who not only passed but at the highest level, Complex.
Rygambo (Gummy Bear for short) is a retired Thoroughbred. Retired from racing years ago, this 23 year old horse is the epitome of calmness and stability. She loves being petted and fondled and admired. She loves walking around calmly and showing her steady gait. She loves looking you right in the eye and giving little licks on your hand.
Rygambo’s owner, Sandy Gardner, has three Delta therapy dogs and thought her horse would make an exceptional addition to the team. So Gummy Bear was put through her paces – seventeen distinct test elements.
Any signs of aggressive or stressed or fearful or submissive behavior or any displacement signals, such as head tossing, mane shaking, pawing, grazing, yawning or turning away would have precluded Gummy from being a Delta Pet Partner. In fact her demeanor was so stellar, she always turned towards whoever called her name.
Gummy had to have all four feet picked up and handled, had to be petted all over including underneath, her tail and mane, had to have several people surround her and touch her at one time, had to walk calmly on a loose reign and stop calmly for petting, she had to have no reaction to visual distractions (objects waving in front of her) or sounds (screeching, blaring, screaming) and of course she had to enjoy interactions with humans.
We also tested Gummy for her reaction to dogs and having a dog nearby was no problem at all. In fact Gummy is surrounded by many dogs at the stable on a daily basis.
Hands were placed near her muzzle, ears, nose, eyes and mouth. Her teeth were examined. She had people walk behind her and bump her and handle her tail. She had people run up to her and again she never startled or veered from steady, perfect, friendly behavior.
When the test was completed she was happy to pose for pictures and get a few carrots.
Gummy will participate with Love Dog Adventures through their All Animal Therapy program.