GARNET VALLEY, Pa. — Zip, a therapy horse at All Riders Up has been entered into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame.
Zip is among 12 horses in the country that earned their place in perpetuity in 2018 in recognition of their stellar athletic performances and inspirational impact on people.
According to the Horse Stars Hall of Fame website:
A very good therapy horse must have certain qualities - steadiness, reliability, a calm disposition, and the ability to accept both riders of varying abilities and unusual situations. Zip exhibits all of these characteristics and more, but what sets him above the rest is that Zip does all of this while being completely blind.
In 2015, after realizing their beloved Appaloosa, no longer the show horse he'd once been, might have a new career as a therapy horse, Zip's owners traveled nearly 250 miles to donate him to All Riders Up in Garnet Valley, Pa. That's how strongly they believed in him.
From the moment he arrived at All Riders Up, Zip has risen to the occasion, time and time again. He's the farm ambassador, taking adaptive equipment, the limits and needs of the students, and a range of handlers and program staff in stride. Zip is as steady and unflappable as they come. He's intuitive, gentle, and kind-hearted. He accepts riders large and small, from the youngest to the oldest, the most physically capable to the least, the novice rider to the advanced, having particularly poignant experiences with blind riders.
It's hard to say whether Zip's own disability makes him more attuned to the needs of his riders or whether his nature inherently lends itself to instilling trust and confidence in those around him. He has worked with hundreds of special needs children and adults and veterans facing physical challenges such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and amputations, emotional or mental challenges such as ADHD, autism, PTSD, anxiety and depression, and medical conditions ranging from epilepsy to blindness, deafness, and more.
"Would you believe our go-to horse on the sensory trail, a place filled with strange sounds, swinging obstacles and uneven footing, would be the horse who can't see what's coming? That's our Zip!" said Marcia Laver, Executive Director at All Riders Up. Who better to sense the requirements of a special needs student than Zip, the horse who has had to depend on humans to be his eyes?
So much of the students' lives at All Riders Up is filled with uncertainty. Day in and day out, they face limitations that range from physical challenges to intellectual or emotional ones to pain thresholds that might change by the minute.
For many students, and for their families, the idea of giving themselves up to a thousand-pound animal can be incredibly daunting. Yet, each time, Zip's steadfastness offers reassurance to even the most nervous rider. Instinctively, he knows what they need and grants it freely — a gentle whuff that tickles a young participant's ear, a steady walk for the student whose overworked muscles are achy and taxed, an unflinching stance while a rider navigates the wheelchair ramp or lift.
Zip has been the cornerstone of the All Riders Up program since the moment he arrived. "We're a small, family-run, non-profit, and sometimes, we're asked, "What do you need? What does the program need?" The answer is always, "Ten more Zips,” said Samantha Facciolo, PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor at All Riders Up. "Zip is one-of-a-kind, a horse whose gifts extend far beyond that which we can trace, and we're incredibly lucky to have him."
The Horse Stars Hall of Fame, a fun and educational interactive website, www.horsestarhalloffame.org, established in 2013 by the EQUUS Foundation and US Equestrian, celebrates the extraordinary talent of horses and shares the stories of their amazing accomplishments.
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