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Mini therapy horse and owner work wonders, Part II

Published: 9/22/2011
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By Marsha Craig

[Read Part I]

Ma passed away November 4, 2008. We started training the following week and we trained for a year.  

Lily is clicker trained.  We passed our evaluation in November, 2009.  The day we passed our evaluation I sorta looked to the sky and said, "this was for you Ma".  

  We are registered with Delta Society, an international organization.  We are also
affiliate members of Tufts Paws for People and Massachusetts Pet Partners.
Currently Delta has 10,804 Registered Pet Partners; 188 miniature horses,
87 horses, 12 donkeys, 10 mini donkeys, two mules not to mention dogs, cats,
rabbits, pigs, birds, llamas, rats, goats, alpacas, chinchillas, hedgehogs and hamsters!
I didn't find any local organizations that would evaluate a horse so when I found
Delta (and the list of pets already registered) there was no question who we
would contact.
Delta Society has a 2-day class and trains the human only.  It is up to the human
to train the pet.  Once we, the humans, feel the pet is ready for testing we contact
Delta and sign up for an evaluation.  Every therapy team must be re-evaluated every
two years and if team fails they must cancel all visits until team passes.
The evaluation process is very rigid.  It consists of you and your pet performing mock
scenarios that would occur in a hospital/nursing home.  During each scenario volunteers play
the part of a facility residents and cause disturbances, throw things, yell, clutch the
animal refusing to let go, and so much more.  In each scenario handler and pet are graded
upon your reaction time, conversation, interaction, attention to the resident, attention to your pet, if your pet was stressed did you handle properly, was resident afraid, did the pet
handle crutches, walkers, wheelchairs without fear.   
The handler and the pet are scored independently.  
You both must pass each scenario, if you fail one scenario you fail the entire evaluation. If you fail they continue with testing so the handler will know if there are other weaknesses in his/her team's performance.
If the team failed due to a serious nature (such as bite, growl, etc) you may never be
tested again by Delta.  If you fail for a lesser issue (perhaps you didn't notice someone
was afraid and you didn't back your pet away) you may be retested but at a later date.  
In the class I was told Lily  wouldn't have to "come" or "leave it" on command but during testing the sneaks put both in - good thing we practiced them!   Thankfully they DID NOT require a SIT or DOWN command.  
Lily is now booked to the end of 2012. 

In Part III... Lily was potty trained using clicker, yep you read that right, potty trained...

View Reader Comments:

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9/22/2011 Lyndsey Lewis
Great stuff!! Thanks for writing about Lily. You must be so proud! I would love to hear more about he potty training????
9/22/2011 A.W.Firestone
Well Done Lily and your person!!! Congratulations. As one who used to do evaluations for the Delta Society, I know it is no walk in the park. You really know your stuff.
9/22/2011 Nina Fuller
I love this! Can't wait to see Lily in action!
9/24/2011 Barbara B
Marsha -You are a very dedicated handler. Lily has been a great partner for you. I think she is a sweet horse and I thank both of you for your kindness to people that need it and are unable to seek it our themselves.
9/24/2011 Marsha Craig
Thank you all so much for the kind words. Thursday was a visit to Raynham Adult Daycare and in a half hour we leave for Brockton VA Hospitals Spinal Cord Unit. It is the most rewarding thing I've ever done and on those days you just don't want to get her ready, you do the visit and the rest of the week you are on such a wonderful high that nothing can bring us down. Nina, we are really looking forward to meeting you and coming with us to the Brockton VA Psych Unit. I hope it is everything you hope the visit to be. Again, thanks everyone for being so kind.
9/24/2011 Beth Capobianchi
Marsha, what you and Lily are doing is wonderful! I know our family really appreciates all that you do.
10/6/2011 Rhonda Almeida
Marsha your story is great,congrats!
10/7/2011 Nancy Jolly
We met Lily this past week at the Brockton VA--she came in for a visit just as my husband Bill was being admitted. What a treat to meet this darling horse. Thank you, Marsha, for your devotion to lifting the spirit of those who are experiencing lonliness and illness. The nice think about an animal is that is does not have an expectation that a patient will speak well or accurately, or that the patient will be able to do any particular thing. Lily gives kisses to one and all and that makes life good.
10/9/2011 marsha craig
Nancy, so happy you all got to meet Lily and you're right she (or any animal) does not have expectations and nor are they judgemental. That was a long visit, we got there at 1:30PM and I think we left close to 3:30 ish. Hope our paths cross again!

"A canter is the cure for every evil" - Benjamin Disraeli, The Young Duke