Who was this George Graham Vest that decided dogs are 'man’s best friend,' anyway? Seriously? "SNORT!!" That rumor started back in 1870, but it obviously wasn’t researched very well! Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to discredit everything that dogs have brought into the lives of their humans. I just think maybe we horses are not getting the recognition we deserve.
Of course, I know you’re thinking that I’m biased because I AM a horse, and I suppose maybe I am. I don’t have anything against dogs, or cats, or cows or any other animal for that matter - well, maybe donkeys. I do have an issue with donkeys but that’s an entirely different story. We all have our place in history; I’m not arguing that. What I’m trying to say is that we horses have had a huge impact on human kind, and it often gets overlooked.
I should introduce myself. My name is C’Mon Speedie, but you can call me Speedie. I’m a Standardbred gelding, retired from harness racing at Scarborough Downs Raceway in Scarborough, Maine. Back in the day, I could tear up the track like no one’s business. But, I suppose with a name like Speedie, you don’t have much choice! All that is a lifetime away though, and it’s not what this is all about. This is about my second career with my new human, how we’ve become partners, and the work we do.
I first acquired my human, Amy, in August of 2010. I had other humans before, but I knew the second Amy came into my life that she was different. One of our obligations as a horse is to take care of our humans. I did my best with Amy, but we got off to a rough start because she was the first human I really cared about. I didn’t exactly agree with all of Amy’s behaviors, and it took a lot of training on my part (and a few reminders for Amy about how hard the ground actually is) before we saw eye to Amy's black eye. I hadn’t had much to do in the previous 3 years, so I was ready for a new career. I hadn’t heard much about equine therapy before and I didn’t even know what an “equine” was until someone pointed out to me that’s what I am! Funny, isn’t it? I always just thought I was just a horse, and here I am with this sophisticated title!
Anyway, equine therapy was something Amy had always dreamed of doing, but the opportunity hadn’t presented itself. Of course, before I was hired on as her first clinician, I needed to know exactly what I was getting into! I’m a hard worker and all, but I’m a little cautious when it comes to new things. Then, she explained it. You see, equine therapy is basically working with people who are struggling with emotional and psychological distress. I know what you’re thinking; doesn’t that usually involve an office and a couch? We do things a bit differently in the barn though. We use what we have and keep people active. Who needs the couch? Amy and I have come up with so many activities in which we involved our clients.
One of our favorite activities is called Temptation Alley. Our clients set up an obstacle course using cones and rails, buckets and hay bales. Then, they place all kinds of snacks along the side of the course before they work to maneuver a horse through the course. The idea is that on the road of life, there are many temptations and distractions which one has to fight to overcome in order to succeed. Believe me, it’s not an easy task to get ME through the obstacle course with all that temptation! Eating is my FAVORITE hobby! What is interesting is watching how these humans are able to problem solve to get us through the course without allowing us to give into temptation. There are a few horse clinicians who put up quite a fight! Of course there are many more activities and several other clinicians. We all have our specialties but we all have such great respect for one another and the important work we do. Of course, you must understand that Amy and I are in charge. Amy gets after me because I sometimes feel the need to remind the other clinicians that I’m the boss. Amy says I’m getting better about not being so snooty about it.
Now, back to this thing about dogs being man’s best friend. "SNORT!!" If one were to see the equine clinician’s at Tykenbay Acres working their magic, I think it would become obvious just how special we horses are. After all, dogs didn’t carry troops into battle and they didn’t name the Pony Express after a dog! Pam Brown had it right when in 1928 she said, “horses are angels without wings.” We love unconditionally, and are able to see the hurt in the hearts of so many who struggle emotionally. I’m proud to be an “equine” and to be working with those who are struggling emotionally. I may not have the nose of a dog, but I have the same compassion for humans, if not more.