he considered his personal space.
“For a lot of horses, that feels really
claustrophobic,” Neff says. “Naturally,
horses are disinclined to be boxed in
on all sides and not have a method of
escape. ;at’s a lot to ask of an animal
whose natural reaction should be to run
first and ask questions later. ;e miracle
of domestication is that there are many
horses who are totally OK with that.
;ey just trust the people around them.”
Some horses at Great and Small are
stepping down from physically demand-
ing careers as competitive athletes. Race-
horses have relatively brief careers. ;e
thoroughbreds that compete in the Ken-
tucky Derby, for example, are 3-year-olds.
Yet horses can compete well into their
teens in equestrian eventing, a three-day
triathlon of sorts in which competitors
are judged on a variety of skills that can
take years of training to perform expertly.
At Great and Small, the youngest horse is
10, Ne; says; the center’s longest-serving
horse died in March at age 33.
Great and Small Volunteer Manager
A successful therapy horse has to be what Neff, the center
Katy Hansen, of Poolesville, began leas-
ing her Kentucky-born thoroughbred,
Angus, to the center last year. Angus
was a comfort to Hansen long before
he became an official therapy horse,
she says. Hansen, now 47, was pregnant
when she bought Angus many years ago,
and she miscarried soon after. Without
Angus to tend to, “I would have run o;
the rails of my life completely,” she says in
an email. “How many overly-tight neck
hugs and tears he endured during that
first year I don’t know.” Hansen came to
director, calls “bomb-proof”: calm, steady and quiet,
no matter what happens.
Center Director Rachel
Neff smiles at her personal
horse, Stella, 14. Stella
is smart, but has back
problems and personality
quirks that make her
unsuitable as a therapy
horse. “She’s a little bit
like a cat,” Neff says. “The
relationship is on her terms.
She likes me, especially if
I have something for her to
eat. But she’s also quite