I am sitting here looking at my now 17-year-old son as I am writing this and it brings tears to my eyes. We first met JT, an AQHA registered Quarter Horse more than 10 years ago when my son was only 7, on the autism spectrum, nonverbal, and needing occupational, physical, and speech therapy. JT was a cutting horse who earned over $80,000 in his career before retiring into the most important job of his life: therapeutic riding.
The very first day we met JT, he was so gentle and calming that my son was in the saddle within minutes, never afraid at all. By the end of the second visit, my son had a big smile on his face and didn’t want to get off JT. He looked forward to our weekly visits, learned to brush and care for JT, learned to say “Whoa,” make a kissing sound, was able to use his motor planning to be able to “give a kiss and a kick,” and used rainbow reins to give commands to JT.
His relationship with JT grew over the years and they could communicate just with my son laying the reins on the side of his neck for the direction my son was leading him. Today, my son speaks, reads beautifully, is physically strong, and is happy and content—all miracles that can be attributed to JT being in our lives and prayer.
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I would like to say that JT was a one-kid therapy horse, but he worked tirelessly with many many other children with similar stories. JT lived at a neighborhood stable until his owner, our therapist, was able to open her own therapy barn and moved him, his two special lady friends, and a few other horses out to the country. He continued to be the prince of the barn, the ultimate favorite and a gentle giant to everyone. He not only had a special bond with my son and other kids, but his relationship with his owner was also incredible. His owner could stand at the edge of the arena and call for him and he would come running to her with his beautiful flaxen mane flowing in the wind, even knowing he was coming in to work.
We had to say our goodbyes to our dear friend on December 23, 2018. We had the opportunity to help care for him as our therapist was out of town the week before. He seemed a little down, but we thought he was just missing his owner. We visited daily and whispered in his ear, “Your mama will be home on Saturday.” She came home Saturday afternoon, spent time with him that evening and the next morning found that he had passed away in his sleep during the night. Being 30 years old, we knew this time would come eventually, but we were never prepared for this event. It was like he knew he needed to say goodbye to his owner and let her have a chance to see him before he left us. Ever considerate, thinking of others until the very end. That was our boy, our special friend, our prince, our JT.
He was the ideal horse to be a therapy horse, even after such a successful, high-paced lifestyle. He took his job so seriously, no matter what the level of ability of the child on his back. His heart was as big as he was. Not only did our family have a special relationship with JT, but through him we have a beautiful relationship with his owner that I see continuing for a long, long time. JT will live on in all of our hearts and minds forever. —Allison B.
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