Cody is easy to overlook. The 24-year-old sorrel Quarter Horse gelding doesn’t stand out in a herd. Quiet and on the plain side, he defers the spotlight to herdmates with more character and chrome. Cody, however, never overlooks anyone.
Seeing everyone—and seeing them deeply—is what makes Cody such a valuable therapy horse at Children, Horses and Adults in PartnerShip (CHAPS), a Wyoming-based nonprofit dedicated to helping people learn, grow and heal through equine-assisted activities and therapies.
“People don’t always immediately notice him like they do some of the other horses,” says Kristen Marcus, the executive director of CHAPS. “He’s calm and quiet and has one of those very soft demeanors that’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But when you’re with him, he soaks up everything you need him to soak up and gives you utter peace back.”
Cody came to CHAPS in 2016 after having spent his early life in Denver as a police horse, then 16 years as a forest service mount in Wyoming. Having spent his entire life in service, the stout gelding wasn’t quite ready to become a pasture puff. He still had much to offer.
Today, Cody is a fan-favorite in the riding program and the veterans’ mental health program. Whether he’s working with a small child with autism or a servicemember working through trauma, Cody always rises to the occasion—whatever that occasion is.
To keep Cody and the other therapy horses in good physical condition, CHAPS employs a robust horsekeeping program that includes custom diets, full-time turnout, aloe juice to prevent ulcers, and bi-weekly chiropractic adjustments. Daily joint support is a major focus of the horse health routine, and the CHAPS team trusts Cosequin® to help the horses feel their best.
“The joints really are the building blocks of the horse’s body, so we want to take care of those,” says Marcus. “If the horses are feeling good, they’re going to give 110 percent every time. Of course we want the horses to feel good, but when they feel good, it’s also very beneficial to our clients. When our horses have comfortable joints, they’re going to move naturally and freely, which gives their riders a much better physical experience on the horse. This translates into improved posture, balance, flexibility, and core strength.”
For riders who have difficulty with postural symmetry, muscle tone, trunk core strength, balance, and motor skills, the fluid movement of a horse can be truly lifechanging. When Cody feels his best—due in part to Cosequin® Optimized with MSM—he can help his riders feel their best.
What Cody might lack in looks, he makes up in innumerable, irreplaceable ways.
“He’s somehow always just the right horse,” says Marcus. “He stands quiet in the crossties and takes a nap when he’s getting groomed. He stands still getting saddled and he’s very good about getting close to the mounting ramp and letting his riders get settled before he even takes a step. He’s a true gentleman.
“And he intuitively knows how to take care of his riders, whatever their ability. For beginners, he takes slow, controlled steps and is very forgiving. If a rider isn’t able to cue correctly, Cody will infer what they want and will do it anyway. For more advanced riders, he’s always ready to go! These days, he likes the way his body feels. He’s ready to stretch his muscles and lope! He’s one of those horses that will give you exactly what you need when you need it.”
For one female veteran, what she needed most from Cody was a hug.
A cohort of female veterans who had experienced military sexual trauma had spent a particularly tough day unpacking difficult emotions, explains Marcus. Cody zeroed in on one of the participants and stood behind her as if to say, “I have your back.” Upon realizing a horse was behind her, the woman turned around and wrapped her arms around his sturdy neck. Cody simply lowered his neck and hugged her back, radiating peace and acceptance.
“He was giving her a squeeze to let her know she’s ok,” says Marcus. “He’s not anything flashy, but he’s exactly what he needs to be.”
Article sponsored by: Nutramax Laboratories Veterinary Sciences, Inc., makers of Cosequin®.