Abby Glenn pets the nose of Cash, a therapy horse, at the Griffith Ranch in Klamath Falls, Oregon. (Brittany Hosea-Small/The Herald and News via AP)

Abby Glenn pets the nose of Cash, a therapy horse, at the Griffith Ranch in Klamath Falls, Oregon. (Brittany Hosea-Small/The Herald and News via AP)

Sue Molloy says there’s a special relationship between horses and humans. (Handout)

Sue Molloy says there’s a special relationship between horses and humans. (Handout)

A retirement home resident visits with a therapy pony in Gond-Pontouvre, France. (Thibaud Moritz/Abaca/Sipa USA)

A retirement home resident visits with a therapy pony in Gond-Pontouvre, France. (Thibaud Moritz/Abaca/Sipa USA)

Horses run in the 2016 Belmont Stakes race in Elmont, New York. (AP/Julio Cortez)

Horses run in the 2016 Belmont Stakes race in Elmont, New York. (AP/Julio Cortez)

American Pharoah gallops past the grandstand after crossing the finish line to win the Belmont Stakes horse race in 2015 in Elmont, New York. (AP/Julio Cortez)

American Pharoah gallops past the grandstand after crossing the finish line to win the Belmont Stakes horse race in 2015 in Elmont, New York. (AP/Julio Cortez)

Racing To Serve

Posted: May 1, 2022

Your therapist walks toward you. He shakes his huge head and snorts. You pat his long neck. His brown eyes lock onto yours. It’s hard to believe this gentle giant used to be a speeding racehorse!

Imagine being taught to run as fast as you can for three or four years. Then, BAM! That’s over. Suddenly, you’re just supposed to wander a sunny pasture for the rest of your life? You might get bored! Is that how retired racehorses feel?

Scientists in the United Kingdom are giving old racehorses a new job. They are training them for therapy.

Sue Molloy works at the National Horse Racing Museum in England. “Racehorses . . . really don’t want to be just standing around in fields for the next 20, 30 years. And they’re so versatile. I really believe there’s a job for 99 percent of them.”

A therapy horse comforts people who struggle with fear, sadness, and anger. Therapy horses also help people with special needs.

The best therapy horse knows how to stay calm. Trainers check the animal’s responses to sudden movements. In a common test, trainers stand in front of a horse and quickly open an umbrella. Most horses will act surprised. A horse that doesn’t get upset and stays open to people is a therapy winner.

It turns out you can teach an old horse new tricks! Dr. Joanna Hockenhull works at the University of Bristol in England. “My personal hope from this project is really to demonstrate to people that they [racehorses] can have amazing second careers.”

Why? An older person or animal has purpose, beauty, and the ability to serve. Older people and animals can encourage others—sometimes in ways they could not when they were younger. 

Pray to be thankful for the many gifts of people and animals of all ages.