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Shippensburg’s Rein of Rhythm seeks community’s help to heal therapy horse

23 January 2013 No Comment

Donate at http://www.gofundme.com/1w46zk


A local therapeutic riding center is asking for the community’s help to heal a therapy horse that has improved the lives of more than 100 children and adults whom it’s worked with.

Gucci, a 17-year-old Halflinger pony at Reins of Rhythm Therapeutic Riding Center in Shippensburg, was recently diagnosed with ovarian granulose tumors.

Marian Goates and Gucci (Courtesy

Reaching that conclusion took a temperament switch and continuous physical discomfort for Gucci, said Patience Groomes, owner of the horse and Reins of Rhythm.

“She wanted to be left alone, which wasn’t her at all. She’s always been very social with other horses and she started to get nasty,” she said. V

eterinarians initially blamed the problem on Lyme disease, but treatment was ineffective. Gucci eventually went to Valley Equine Associates Equine Hospital in Ranson, W. Va., where an ultrasound revealed she was producing excessive amounts of testosterone.

“She got very aggressive to male horses; that was our clue that it was something hormonal,” Groomes said.

Groomes said she was taken back to learn of her horse’s diagnosis, and never thought to ask how many tumors Gucci had. In surgery to remove them, however, the veterinarian found them to be the size of basketballs, Groomes said.

The surgery produced a medical bill of $1,600 Groomes said. The two-and-a-half hour one-way trip to the equine hospital will be required several times throughout Gucci’s approximately four-month recovery, each time done in a large diesel truck with Gucci in a horse trailer on the back and producing a hefty bill.

With medication, expenses for daily care, extra costs for a substitute horse that is replacing Gucci while she is regaining her health and various other related expenses, the nonprofit Reins and Rhythm is in need of $3,200.

Groomes created a page on the social fundraising website www.gofundme.com on Monday. There, anyone can use a credit card to donate any amount of money to the cause. The specific page is http://www.gofundme.com/1w46zk.

Finding Gucci was the defining moment in Groomes’ journey toward opening Reins of Rhythm in 2006. The 27-year-old wanted to combine her passions for working with horses and working with children with special needs, and finding the specific Halflinger breed on a horse consignment website was Groomes’ first step in making that happen.

“(Halflingers are) well known for their very kind, easy going, gentle temperament,” Groomes said. “It’s not a huge horse or a small horse, and they’re built sturdy so they can hold a heavy rider.”

Gucci is one of five horses of Reins of Rhythm, and is the horse that has the most experience and that most students have their first encounter with, Groomes said.

“She’s the most dependable horse for even the most difficult riders. No matter what the need was she’s just great, she really focuses on the kids and she’s so gentle with them,” she added.

While there are adult students, the riding center focuses its efforts on children and is particularly beneficial for those with special physical and emotional needs, Groomes said. By working with horses, both able-bodied and special needs students gain improved social skills, coordination, balance, confidence and responsibility.

Other benefits, particularly for those with disabilities, include improved muscle strength and control, posture and increased movement.

Marian Goates, 11, has experienced many of these benefits while a student at Reins and Rhythm.

The Shippensburg girl started the program almost three years ago to better handle the effects of a multi-system auto immune disorder, said her mother, Valerie Goates. Challenges she faces include weak abdominal muscles and overall weak core due to intestinal problems, but other muscle groups suffer as well. She had a bone marrow transplant five years ago, her mom said.

“I see all the confidence she has working with the horse,” Valerie Goates said.

Speaking through her mother, Marian said Gucci is very nice and knows not to go too fast when she is riding her. She said her favorite activity with Gucci is the “yo-yo game,” in which she leads her back and forth, like the motions of a yo-yo.

Because of her own medical experiences, Marian said she has faith that Gucci will recover.

According to Groomes, Gucci is currently on six weeks of strict stall rest. After that a handler will walk her twice a day for two weeks before she will be permitted to walk alone. Exercise and training will begin again at the four month mark, but only with the smallest riders. Groomes said she expects a 100 percent recovery.

“It’s been very emotionally draining because not only has she been the horse that started the program, but a lot of children are very attached to this horse,” Groomes said.

—————————— Amber South can be reached at asouth@publicopinionnews.com and 262-4771.

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