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Horses & Hippotherapy

Travel Stage: Stop between Michigan to West Virginia
Travel Date: October 11, 2014
​Summary: We stopped in Whitehouse, Ohio for a quick visit with a horse and to verify the outcome of a hard decision.

In order to go on this adventure, I had to do something about my horses. We were boarding them at the time, and it wouldn’t have been fair to them to just leave them behind. Not to mention that horses are expensive. The monthly board expense would be a little steep once we left our 9-5 jobs, plus deworming, vaccinations, farrier, and any other miscellaneous expenses that come up (and they often do). I had two horses. One that was my first horse that I had had since I was a child, and the other was a college graduation gift of sorts…more on that below. ​
My horses: Indi (left) and Jupiter (right). Sorry he’s a little dirty in this picture – white horses are difficult to keep clean!

Indi

My first horse, Indi (short for Indian Doll), was every young girl’s dream-come-true! I got her as a birthday present when I turned twelve, and she was the best. I could do anything with that horse. My parents’ house butted up to miles and miles of snowmobile trails and old logging roads, and we nearly explored them all!   Twelve years later, she was old, unsound, and unrideable – with a case of navicular disease that worsened as she aged, an old bowed tendon, and an old torn stifle (knee ligament) – but I still loved her to death. When I moved from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, she traveled the 500+ miles with me to relocate. We’d been through alot together, and there was no way I could give her up. Tom understood, and so I made plans to keep her at a dear friend’s house in “retirement”. She would be well cared for, and also serve as a companion horse.


Indi – my dream come true!  

Jupiter

My second horse, Jupiter, was a flashy black and white paint gelding. He was a package deal that came with the horse trailer we bought in order to move Indi to downstate Michigan after I graduated college – which probably isn’t the wisest way or reason to buy a horse, but it was also a sort of rescue situation.

When we got him, his coat was dull and rough, his feet were in poor condition, and we were told him hadn’t been ridden in a few years. Our boarding stable was great in helping us turn his condition around. In just a few weeks he looked like a completely different horse!   ​

My first ride on Jupiter was…interesting. I found out that he didn’t really remember how to stop after he got going! He was a good boy, though, and he learned quickly. After getting to know each other, refreshing a few of the basics (like stopping), and a more regular riding schedule, he’d be waiting for me at the gate, ready to go!


  Jupiter was goregous, and he knew it 🙂  

I was so happy to be riding again. It had been several years since I’d been able to ride Indi due to the progression of her navicular disease. Jupiter and I both enjoyed trail rides better than arena work, so we trailered to nearby trail systems whenever we could. We were having great fun when Tom and I made the decision to set off on this new adventure.  

  My mom always told me that “You can have it all, just not all at once.” While it hurt to have to make a decision like this, the adventure of a lifetime awaited me. While I loved Jupiter, I knew I couldn’t keep him on hold for two years while we traveled the country.

For one, it wouldn’t have been fair to him. He had come too far to not have the regular work and attention he thrived on. Two, we really couldn’t afford it. In fall of 2014, I made the hard decision to sell, and before I knew it I was loading him into a trailer bound for a farm in Ohio called TimberWolff Stables.  

Now, this stable is a very special stable: it is a Hippotherapy Clinic. Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy in which a therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded motor and sensory input.

The mission of TimberWolff Stables is to promote physical and emotional wellness to children with disabilities through the principles of hippotherapy. How does it work and who does it help? From Timberwolff Stables website:

“Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational or speech therapy treatment strategy utilizing the horses movement to address impairments, functional limitations and disabilities in children with neuromotor dysfunction. Hippotherapy also offers an enjoyable therapeutic experience for the child that cannot be duplicated in the clinic. There is a natural therapeutic benefit that develops when children and horses are together, both physically and emotionally.

Children with a variety of disabilities can be seen including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, autism, traumatic brain injury, Down’s syndrome, genetic disorders, spina bifida, sensory processing disorder, weakness from chemotherapy and developmental delays.

The horse’s movement has rhythmicity, symmetry, a dynamic base of support and three dimensional movement, all of which provide the patient with movement experiences difficult to replicate in a traditional therapy environment. The horse’s gait pattern is very similar to the human gait pattern. It is this movement experience that allows patients to achieve new abilities and strengths. These include improved balance, muscle tone, strength, endurance, coordination, self confidence, concentration, attention span and sensory processing.”

On our way south from Michigan to West Virginia, we were able to stop at this stable in Whitehouse, Ohio and visit Jupiter. The facility was beautiful, the people were extremely friendly, and Jupiter looked great! If I had any doubts in my mind that letting him go was the best decision, they were gone.

His new name is Harley, and he is being ridden almost daily, getting great care, and getting lots of attention. He is also one of the kids’ favorites for his flashy colors! I couldn’t be happier or more proud of this handsome boy, who came from a rough situation not really knowing how to stop, all the way to a hippotherapy horse.

An Unexpected Goodbye

As for Indi, she past away suddenly just 3 days after I finalized the sale of Jupiter in the fall of 2014. While the diagnosis wasn’t concrete, we believe she had throat cancer. Putting her down was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

However, I am thankful that we were not yet roaming the distant corners of the country when her time came. I was able to spend one last sunny fall day soothing and pampering my beloved horse, and was able to hold her in her final moments. For a horse in her condition, she had a very good, long life and had covered many miles.

A huge thank you to my parents for taking a chance and making their little girl’s dream come true! Indi taught me more than I probably realize, and has been a fundamental part of my life. I miss her dearly. Rest in peace, my dear sweet friend.    

After losing both my horses in one week, I was a mess. I thought about calling Timberwolff Stables and begging them to let me take Jupiter back. Horses had always been a part of my identity and once they were gone, I truly felt lost.

Long emotional story short, I didn’t beg for him back, and I am so glad I didn’t. He is doing so well now that I didn’t even feel sad visiting him!   While I am currently “horseless,” horses will always be in my life.

Even as we travel, I will be constantly looking for opportunities to be around them. Who knows what will come? 🙂 If you are looking for a riding partner, groom, or temporary caretaker and we are in the area, send me a message!

​Author: Caitlin Morton

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Melissa P

Monday 16th of September 2019

I cried when I read this post. I know the pain of losing 4-legged babies. Horses are just big ones. Included a short clip of my Wiley (JC Runaway Wildcat). So glad I got to share our story with you in Alaska.

Caitlin Morton

Monday 16th of September 2019

Hi Melissa! Loved the clip, he is gorgeous! I found him on Facebook :D So great to meet you in Alaska, and best of luck with his dressage!

Carla P.

Tuesday 10th of November 2015

Safe travels! What an amazing adventure! May guardian angels travel along with you.

Caitlin

Saturday 14th of November 2015

Thanks, Carla! Appreciate your support :)

Caitlin

Monday 26th of October 2015

Thanks, Pat! It was a very beautiful area - we will be stopping again when we pass through. :)

Pat Cheesbro

Monday 26th of October 2015

I enjoy your blog. Whitehouse, OH...I always see the sign for the butterfly house when we are going to Toledo. Some day I will get there.

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