At The Shane Center for Therapeutic Horsemanship where Dad and I volunteer sometimes, I have the profound honor of working with Stevie. He’s a veteran of their program, and a celebrity among his riders and adoring fans, not that he’d ever tell you that. He’s as humble as his service record is distinguished.
I spoke with him, with the assistance of farm owner, Karen Sanchez, about his career as a therapy horse. Here’s what he had to say…
-Give a brief biography, age, length of service at The Shane Center, etc.
My registered name is Half Diamond Styvi (pronounced Stavay). I came to Willow Farm on May 21, 2010. I was born April 24, 1997 in Tofield, AB Canada. Interestingly my great grand sire is Grabb who was imported from Norway and stood in Colorado. My Dam’s Grand Sire was named Knut and Dam’s Grand Dam was named Siri. Thanks to a generous donation, I was purchased from a lady near Columbus who only had him about a month—she purchased me from a family who had 7 children. They wanted me for trail riding but I didn’t care to keep up with the gaited horses her friend rode and even preferred to stay back at camp by himself munching hay on the picket line.
Karen seems to think I’m worth my weight in diamonds, and changed my name a little to “Stevie” so it was easier for the kiddos to pronounce.
-Do you have any specialties you’re known for?
I’m pretty good at at sensing changes in riders . . . sometimes the handlers think I’m just being pokey or stubborn, sometimes refusing to move. Then low and behold, my rider will have a seizure. The more stubbornly I hold my place, the bigger the seizure. I’m a big fan of “hugging”. If anyone on the ground with me hugs me, I’ll wrap my neck around them and hug back. Sometimes I’ll even sneak a hug on someone who isn’t expecting it… hee hee hee! I find sometimes humans don’t even know they needed a hug until I lay one on them. Patience is one of my strongest skills, I’ll wait for days if it suits me. I also like to play with my humans if I think they’re getting a little lazy or not paying attention—and it helps me get the human to work up a sweat while I just stand or move a few inches. Now if there is food involved, that’s another story! There is a spring in my step and maybe even a few bucks as I gallop out to the pasture after acting like I am so tired I can’t possibly make it one more lap around the arena. I’m also excellent at teaching students how to ride a transition from trot to canter—I am very smooth and will just canter one or two steps unless you ask for more.
-You work with all manner of students, and all manner of physical and non-physical injury/illness. What do you find the most challenging/rewarding?
Honestly, I love everybody, especially those that are a bit afraid or nervous. I find the riders who are learning to canter and learning to say trot for 5 min. the most challenging because well why should I work that hard? I mean if you are going to expect me to work up a sweat, I am going to expect you to be able to steer AND give me the cue to go forward AND have a clear focus AND determination all at the same time. If you can only do one thing at a time I will test you—if you can steer well then super I will stop trotting, if you have a great aid for trot, GREAT, I will trot and turn across the arena—I mean it is a long way around so why not take a short cut? Once you get all your ducks in a row then I am a dream machine—soft, light, easy to go and well my favorite WHOA (did I feel you shift your weight? I had better stop or slow down just in case you were losing your balance. OH sorry you were just adjusting your foot in the stirrup? I thought you were going to fall off).
I have a talent for helping people develop patience and problem solving skills. I mean maybe you think I’m being stubborn but how can you get mad at such a sweet face or a hug? When riders do start to get frustrated or angry, I put on my puppy eyes or Elvis lip. I like teaching people to have multiple strategies to solve problems. I also teach them to have clear expectations. You wanted to go faster but used a pretty big cue, well I will offer to canter a few steps to see if that causes you to suddenly make me slow down. You are learning to mount independently and you get me all lined up at the mounting block by yourself and you are ready to hike your leg over, I will take 3 very slow well placed steps backwards and just a few inches away . . . most riders will then run up and down the steps to keep re-aligning him until I show them how to use the driving game, STAY on the block, and use clear focus and intent to get him to stand still. You get him going faster and are able to keep him going but OOOPS there is a barrel right in the way . . . On the flip side, a student who is maybe afraid or having trouble getting on I stand like a concrete statue and then walks as if I’m walking on egg shells . . . another student who might think they are getting a little big for their britches takes me out to the playground on line and asks me to jump the log, I’ll act like a 3 year old Arabian snorting, tail up, jumping and kicking up my heels, and maybe even getting them to release their grip on the rope so Ican display my airs above the ground—I mean it puts the Lippianizars to shame!
-Do you have a favorite student or activity, maybe one you really connected with?
Every student is my favorite . . . My most favorite lesson activity is when the instructor hides carrots or bits of apples around the arena and the rider has to ride to different obstacles to help me find them. I love a good demolition derby, to knock over, push aside, and thoroughly investigate the props to ensure there are no treats hidden there. There is one student who doesn’t talk much at all but says my name loud and clear . . . when the humans are on break I am told she just won’t stop saying “Where’s Stevie?”
-When off duty, who’s the crowd you run with, and what do you like to do?
My herd includes Knut & Toby, Mack and Ghibson. Ghibson is a big show off and Mack is his chump. Toby & Knut are easy to intimidate with a swish of my tail or flick of my ears. When Ghibson is not around I rule the roost and am not afraid to push my weight around to get the choice pile of hay. Going to the big pasture is my favorite—eating grass. I might kick up my heels and get the heck out of dodge to get to the pasture but 2 feet in I can slide to a stop and my head is down grabbing mouthfuls of sweet green goodness while the others are running around all fancy smancy like. Why waste all that energy? I mean you might need it for keeping warm or stocking up because 3 times a day is just not enough feedings in my book.
I need a few details to complete the nomination form, but as soon as I have them, I’ll share the link so you can nominate him as well, for his outstanding achievement in the role of Equine of the year! Thanks to Stevie and Karen for taking the time to talk with me, and sharing your story with my readers. Who doesn’t love a hero?