Dooleyssmoothscotch “Dooley” came from champion bloodlines, but he was born to be a champion among children (and some adults) with various challenges—I just didn’t know that when I bought him as a coming 2-year-old. We enjoyed many trail miles, horse shows, and playdays together, but one thing Dooley didn’t like was water! Drinking and bathing were fine, but don’t ask him to cross it!

Dooley’s true calling began to be revealed when at the age of 11 he was screened for acceptance at the local therapeutic riding program [at Santa Ynez Valley Therapeutic Riding Program] and passed with flying colors. With full disclosure concerning Dooley’s problems with water crossing, the program director assured me it wouldn’t be a problem as they never ask a horse giving therapy to do that.

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Nearly ten years later, at almost 21, Dooley has carried hundreds of riders, young and old, leading to vast improvement in their various physical and emotional challenges. When I read the story of a 4-year-old boy with autism who had never spoken a word— that is, until he was aboard his favorite therapy horse, Dooley—tears came to my eyes.

As for Dooley’s aversion to water, just months after he began his career as a therapy horse, we’d had quite a bit of rain. As I watched a video the director had sent me of a 10-year-old girl riding Dooley through a virtual “lake” in their riding ring, the thought came to me: the therapeutic riding program will be good for Dooley too! —Lisa W.

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