Therapy horses die in Ohio fire
OREGON, Ohio — Therapy horses killed in an Ohio barn fire were more than companion animals for the disabled adults and children who rode them. One taught an abused girl to trust others again; another inspired a little boy with autism to say his first words.
“They were doing God's work,” said Mike McGee, whose family owns the Vail Meadows Equestrian Center that has offered horse-riding therapy programs for people with cerebral palsy, autism, and emotional and learning disabilities for two decades.
Six of the center's eight therapy horses died on Thursday when a fire tore through a century-old barn at the center, which is along Lake Erie and just outside Toledo. Four privately owned horses, along with a few goats, ducks and a pot-bellied pig, also died in the blaze.
The cause is not yet known, but investigators don't suspect arson.
The therapy horses were specially trained; they had gentle natures and enough patience to handle riders who might thrash around with flailing arms and legs. Only one of every five horses donated to the center has what it takes, McGee said.
Riders almost always develop a special bond with the animals, and some have a hard time riding any other but their favorite.
McGee recalls a young girl from years ago who had been abused and didn't trust men. She finally got to the point where he could help show her how to ride.
“That horse brought that little girl out of that,” he said. “There's thousands of stories like that.”
Some researchers have found that the horse's rhythmic movements stimulate and strengthen the riders' unused muscles and improve their stability. There's also the belief that therapy horses help with speech, memorization skills and compassion.
“Our biggest challenge is going to be telling those kids,” said McGee, a Toledo police officer who lost his own special horse in the fire — a retired member of the department's mounted patrol unit named Harley.
An indoor riding center and another stable were not damaged in the fire. Many owners of surviving horses boarded at the farm, along with other horse owners in northern Ohio, have offered to donate their animals to keep the therapy program and the center's special mission going.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Couple pleads not guilty in Kentucky bourbon thefts
- Giant hole forms near golf course
- Police officials rethink approach to training
- D.C. mansion murder suspect had help, police say
- As oil production soars, so do pipeline leaks
- Suspect in killings of wealthy D.C. family arrested
- 28 evacuated as fire hits oil platform off Louisiana coast
- Coal’s worst fears affirmed in analysis of Obama climate plan
- Calif. farmers’ group will cut water use in historic deal
- Ex-Va. lawmaker plans to wed teen in sex scandal
- Senators push for full funding for Amtrak