A therapeutic riding horse shows his true value when he is asked to do something extraordinary, and he does it. As if it were nothing. An everyday thing. A thing that any horse could do.
That was Dooley.
Not long after he came to us, we asked Dooley to work with our very first paraplegic rider. That meant tolerating a wheelchair wheeling up the ramp beside him. Standing perfectly still while his rider was hoisted by a pulley, swung over his back, then lowered down onto him. Being absolutely trustworthy in all situations (snow sliding off the arena, cats in the rafters, meteors striking the earth) while his rider was aboard.
He did all that, and never, ever red-lined my blood pressure! Working with riders whose disabilities make them vulnerable or fragile is a huge responsibility for horse and human alike, but Dooley made it all look easy.
He came to us in 2009, donated by a grateful owner who had asked Dooley to re-build her confidence after a bad fall in competition. She bought Dooley to help her trust horses again. To trust herself as a rider. And he did that. To the point that she’d bought another show horse, and now Dooley had no job. We took him gladly, and he quickly became the cornerstone of our therapeutic riding program.
Need a steady-eddy for an anxious rider? Dooley. Need a horse that’s completely trustworthy off the lead for a rider “going solo” for the first time? Dooley. Need a guinea pig to try out that hoist and the scary wheelchair? Dooley.
He came to us as a very well-maintained 25-year-old – an age when most horses would be hanging up their horseshoes – and worked until the age of 30, retiring only once the uveitis he’d been suffering with for years took his vision completely. We had trouble convincing people of his age. He was plump and round and shiny. So when he dropped weight suddenly, we knew something was up. He passed a few weeks later, three days before the vet was scheduled to come out and euthanize him. How very like Dooley to go out on his own terms.
Rest in peace, Dooley. Know that you were loved by many, and your memory lives on.