GAIT TRC utilizes specially trained horses who have been carefully selected for their temperament, soundness, and equilateral movement. Prospective horses that are donated to the program are thoroughly vetted prior to being accepted on a trial basis.
The ideal horse must be sound at the walk/ trot/ canter, have good ground manners, accepting of their environment and riders, have a low flight response, and able to learn how to handle people walking on both sides of them. Ideal height is 13-15 hands and usually in their teen years or older. While the work is at a steady pace, not every horse is suitable to accept the challenges presented within a therapeutic setting. Emphasis on the horse’s health and happiness, as well as the safety of riders and volunteers, is of the utmost importance to us.
Horse Sponsorship Program
GAIT maintains a herd of ten very special horses; each one unique and with very specific needs. Providing for a barn full of horses is very expensive, but GAIT’s Horse Sponsorship Program helps to offset the high costs of vet care, farrier visits, basic necessities, and individual needs. When you sponsor a GAIT animal you will receive a folder containing a Sponsorship Certificate, a picture of the horse you have chosen, and a biography of that horse, not to mention the satisfaction of contributing to a good cause.
You can sponsor a horse for $100/ mo or $1200/ yr, but any donation amount would be greatly appreciated. The biography of each horse is below along with a sponsorship link.
Color: Dark Brown
Born: April 8, 1990
GAIT’s “champion” and herd boss, Diggy’s gentle assertiveness and calm demeanor have proven him to be the horse you can rely on! With his “can do” attitude and winning personality, this former harness racer is always there with a shoulder to lean on when you need it the most. Diggy exudes confidence, and riders and herd mates alike are easily drawn to his magnetic and reassuring personality.
The Standardbred is an American horse breed, best known for their skill in harness racing as the fastest trotters in the world. Standardbreds are a gaited breed known for their distinctive “pace,” which is a two beat lateral movement, as opposed to a diagonal movement at the trot. They are hard workers and very people oriented, making them easy to train and always up for whatever task you ask of them.
As a racehorse, Diggy’s stalwart diligence and dedication to his career earned him the admiration and respect of his former trainers and has made him invaluable as a therapeutic horse. For nearly two decades, Diggy has faithfully served his riders at GAIT and has been a shining example to all to always do your best and to never give up.
Breed: Icelandic Horse
Born: circa 1996
Small in stature with a mighty personality, Little Bear quickly earned his place in the herd after his arrival in the fall of 2016. His gentle demeanor and nearly unflappable disposition instantly endears him to anyone he meets. Eager to please and full of curiosity, Bear is a quick learner and easily adapts to any situation set before him.
Iceland’s only breed of horse is known for their rich history, sure-footedness, and displaying two gaits in addition to the typical walk/ trot/ canter. The “tolt” is a four- beat lateral ambling gait, comparable to the running walk of the Tennessee Walking Horse. The “flying pace” is a two-beat lateral gait used over short distances and capable of reaching speeds up to 30 mph. Despite being “pony sized” at an average of 13-14 hands tall, breed registries have always referred to Icelandics as “horses.” Theories suggest this is due to their spirited temperament and big personalities, while others credit their strength, stamina, and longevity.
True to his breed’s characteristics, Little Bear proves that greatness comes from within. Born in New Hampshire, he participated in 4H events, gymkhana, obstacles, and competitive trail riding. His versatility, confidence, and experience have made him an asset to GAIT in providing therapeutic services.
“Ebony’s Mountain Pride”
Breed: Tennessee Walking Horse
Born: October 3, 1996
This smooth “walker” will easily capture your heart with his sweet disposition. Energetic and playful, it’s hard to say no to this black beauty. He will gently tease his herd mates in hopes of coaxing them to play. When he’s not sweet talking his girlfriend, Midnight, or playing with his buddies Rusty and RJ, Montana loves nothing better than to enjoy a good roll after a hard day’s work.
Tennessee Walkers were bred as a utility horse to adapt to a variety of riders and styles of riding. Tennessee Walkers are gaited horses because of an additional gait that was bred in to them called a “running walk.” The running walk is an extra-smooth gait that gives the rider a feeling of gliding through the air.
Here at GAIT we look for horses that have something really special to offer our riders- whether it is through size, personality, or movement. With Montana, we found all of those things. Formerly a field horse, Montana was expected to carry equipment, a rider, and the occasional dog while out on dog training exercises, and was such a steady mount that he became the horse of choice to bring back the dogs. As a therapeutic horse, this quality instills confidence in his riders as he patiently does whatever is asked of him. Standing at 14.3 hands, Montana’s loving personality, docile temperament, and smooth gaits make him a great addition to the GAIT family.
“Mamie’s Boy Patrick”
Breed: Connemara Pony
Born: June 6, 1994
Patrick enjoys the finer things in life, short walks on the beach, and long naps in the sun. Despite his laid back, “West Coast,” nature, Patrick is all business during class and is GAIT’s “go-to” horse for Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy. Smart and independent, with a goofy sense of humor, Patrick strives to achieve excellence in all that he does while hoping to instill those same qualities in others.
The Connemara is a pony breed, originating in Ireland. They are built to be strong, sure footed, sound, and have easy going temperaments suitable for riders of all ages. Patrick is just the right size at 14.2 hands, but it is his unending patience and ability to assess the needs of his riders that make him perfect for therapeutic riding. He transitions easily to meet every rider’s needs, which makes him invaluable as a therapeutic horse. Patrick particularly loves children and seeks to meet his young riders after class by lowering his head to greet them when they dismount.
Aside from Therapeutic Riding, Patrick’s true calling is Hippotherapy (hippo is Greek for horse). Hippotherapy, performed by a PATH registered Licensed Therapist, uses the movements of a horse to provide motor and sensory input. Patrick is very patient with his riders as they move into the various Hippotherapy positions such as sitting backwards or laying down on his back. He effortlessly remains calm and collected throughout the session while he adjusts his own movement and speed to meet the needs of his rider.
“My Rocky Joe”
Breed: Haflinger Pony
Color: Flaxen Chestnut
Born: March 31, 2005
The youngest in the herd, RJ is very playful and full of energy. He loves attention and will entice you with his antics and bubbly personality. His curiosity and eagerness to be a part of everything going on around him makes him a quick learner. RJ loves to put on a show and “horse around” with his herd mates, particularly with Montana and Midnight.
The Haflinger breed is thought to have originated in the Tyrolian Mountains of Austria, dating as far back as 555 A.D. They were developed for mountainous terrain and we selectively bred for their sturdy confirmation, strong hind end, being surefooted, and most notably their gentle dispositions. Relatively small, Haflingers are known for their golden chestnut coloring, flaxen mane and tail, and their distinctly energetic, yet smooth, gaits. This versatility has allowed this breed of horse to excel in many different jobs such as: farming/ plowing, trail/pack horse, wagon pulling, competitive horse shows and events, military use, and therapeutic riding.
The Austrian description of Haflingers as “a prince in the front, a peasant behind,” suits RJ as he embodies all of the physical qualities and easy personality of a typical Haflinger pony, which is why he was chosen to become a member of the GAIT herd and family.
“Jimmers Rhinestone” aka “Cheyenne”
Breed: Quarter Horse
Color: Red Roan
Born: May 28, 1996
Rusty is a sophisticated gentleman with a cowboy’s charm. His strength and sensitivity are sure to warm your heart. His hard-working ethic serves as an outstanding example to the other horses in the barn. Rusty is not just “all work and no play” however, and he is far from a “dull boy.” He loves to play with his buddy Montana and to enjoy a leisurely lope in the pasture.
Rusty is an American Quarter Horse and is a true fit to the breed’s characteristics. Patience, intelligence, and strength are three words that are often used to describe these horses. As the first “American” horse, this breed is the product of the Spanish Barb, Turk, Arabian, and Thoroughbred and has inherited the best features from each. The Quarter Horse was also once called the “Celebrated American Running Horse,” and now we celebrate Rusty as a GAIT TRC therapeutic horse!
Quarter Horses are also known for their versatility, and Rusty is no exception! Trained in both English and Western riding, Rusty has performed in the show ring as well as out on the trail, and meets new situations with an eagerness to learn. Affectionately named Rusty for his beautiful red roan coat and standing at 15.2 hands, his strong build and calm temperament makes him an ideal therapeutic horse.
“Slam Hanover” aka
Born: May 23, 1996
Quiet and thoughtful, Slam’s steady and calm demeanor instills trust and confidence in his riders and easily makes him one of the most dependable horses in the barn. His quirky charm and sweet disposition is sure to make you smile. Whether he is gazing dreamily out his stall window or gracefully prancing in the field, it is easy to see that Slam is an innately remarkable horse.
The Standardbred is a true American horse that was bred for harness racing as trotters or pacers; two distinctly different gaits. Most Standardbreds can be traced back to “Hambletonian,” the fastest trotting horse in the mid- 1800’s. This breed is so named for setting the “standard” of racing a mile in 2.15 minutes (for three year olds) to 2.20 minutes (for two year olds), or less.
Although not much is known about Slam’s past, the brand on the right side of his neck suggests that he may have raced during some point in his life. Slam moved several times in his life before being introduced to the GAIT way of life in August, 2013. He is a smart horse and took to his new job as a therapeutic horse willingly and with ease. His smooth yet forward- moving walk gives riders a sense of fast movement through space without any fear of being rocked off balance. Slam seems to like his new job, and we are very happy to have him here at GAIT TRC!
“Pikos Peppy Girl”
Breed: Quarter Horse
Born: January 15, 1996
Lobo may have a lot of “pep” in her step, but this little lady is as gentle as can be. Smart as a whip, she is quick to pick up on her rider’s needs and will patiently wait for them to feel comfortable. She will eagerly go wherever her rider asks, and has the confidence to carry them safely through any obstacle on their path.
Lobo is registered as an American Quarter Horse as well as a registered palomino under the Palomino Horse Breeders Association. While the term “palomino” describes a particular horse color (gold coat with a white mane and tail), registered palominos are considered a “color breed,” which refers to groupings of horses based primarily on their coat color regardless of their horse breed or type.
Lobo was donated to GAIT TRC in the summer of 2015 by longtime friend of GAIT, Ron Barillo. Due to a progressing debilitating illness, Ron felt that he was unable to continue to give Lobo the care and attention that she deserved. During their time together, Ron noted how Lobo was always patient with him and quickly learned to adapt to his needs. Ron stated, “Lobo always took care of me. If we got into an awkward situation on the trail, she would always bail me out.” Having seen for himself how special she was, Ron donated his beloved Lobo to GAIT, where he knew she would have a good life filled with purpose by helping others in need. Lobo’s sweet disposition, intelligence, and gentle nature have already made her a welcomed member of the GAIT family.
Breed: Pony/ Draft
Color: Red Roan
Born: circa 1999
Tucker’s gentle personality and “can do” attitude quickly integrated him into the GAIT herd. His soft eyes (one brown and one blue), sturdy build, and quiet demeanor quickly instills trust in even the most timid of riders. His kindness extends to his fellow herd mates as well as he is quick to stand up for “the little guy” and is a willing friend to anyone in need, although he much prefers the company of his girlfriend, Breeze.
While his breeding is unknown, Tucker’s thick bone structure, “feathery” legs, compact body, and smaller size at 14 hands indicates that he is a mix of a draft type and pony. His high-stepping walk and shortened (docked) tail suggests that at one point in his life, he worked as a carriage horse. Whatever his experience may have been, he has learned to carry himself with confidence and warmly greets his human partners like an old friend.
Tucker was donated to GAIT TRC in 2017 by Ms. Beverly Simons, who recognized that he had a “special something” and lots of love to give. He easily adapted to his new job and his willingness to work quickly made him on of GAIT’s most dependable horses.
“Breeze of Lexlin”
Breed: Gypsy Vanner
Color: Black Blagdon
Born: July 24, 2010
Breeze is sure to turn heads with her strong stature, flowing mane and tail, “feathery” legs, and blue eyes, but it is her gentle and adaptable nature that draws people to her. She is exceedingly patient, willing to please, and loves to share a cuddle or enjoy a head rub during quiet moments with her humans
The Gypsy Vanner is a small draft horse developed by the Romani/ Gypsy people in Great Britain and Ireland after WWII and was largely unknown to the outside world until their “discovery” in the mid 1990’s. Named for the “caravans” they pulled, Gypsy Vanners were strictly bred for their strength and docile nature. The nomadic lifestyle of the Gypsies required horses that were easy keepers, hard workers, calm in any situation, and gentle enough for children.
Breeze was donated to GAIT by Lexlin Gypsy Ranch, located in Tennessee, through their Gypsy Gift Facebook Contest. There were 80 PATH Intl. member centers were nominated to win one of 20 selected Gypsy Vanner horses. Through the outstanding support of the community and abroad during this two month long contest, GAIT won 2nd place with 26,272 votes! Breeze was described by Lexlin as “forward moving and eager to work” and was one of two horses offered who had already been trained under saddle. Her experience with basic training on the trail and arena, participating in leadership programs, and maturity made her the perfect pick for GAIT!
Photos by Dawn J. Benko