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Posts Tagged ‘john shirreffs

Zenyatta: Hippotherapy in the Shedrow

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Being the greatest race mare in history isn’t enough for Zenyatta. She also acts as a therapeutic partner for a child with autism, as The Blood-Horse reports.

Courtesy Santa Anita press

Step back for a second and consider whether or not you’d just fearlessly walk up to a 17 hand, fighting-fit Thoroughbred racehorse.

And then imagine the 5 year-old boy who does so.

Jack, who has autism and lives, as his father says, “in a distant world,” loves Zenyatta. A lot of us love Zenyatta – but it’s unlikely that she’d allow anyone else the closeness that she affords Jack – not knowing how to pet her, trainer John Shirreffs explains, Jack pokes his finger into her side and screams to express his happiness.

Jack’s father says that just mentioning Zenyatta makes the distant child “glow with happiness and jump up and down.”

Nationally, the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) has more than 6,300 equines on its rosters, from minis to mules and every sort of breed in between, and in 2009 NARHA organizations assisted more than 40,000 participants. Interestingly, autism was the number one special need served by NARHA centers. Rapidly growing in diagnosis and still a mystery in its many forms, children with autism seem especially attuned to horses – and horses to them.

Zenyatta’s acceptance of this little boy in her life is just one more example of that old saying: horses know.

Written by Natalie Keller Reinert

March 26, 2010 at 12:56 am