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Equine Assisted Therapy and the Code of the West

The first time I saw the “Code of the West” was on a poster sitting in an office at Horses Help, a PATH Premiere Therapeutic Riding Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

These ten simple sentences had quite an impact on me, and it turns out I’m not the only one. Upon digging deeper I discovered the book Cowboy Ethics – What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West, by James Owen. It turns out that these principles strike a deep chord in all kinds of people, and I was personally inspired to share how I see the first five of them show up in equine-assisted therapy programs.

1) Live each day with courage:
To me, the clients served in equine-assisted therapy programs demonstrate courage every day. It takes courage to live with disabilities- visible or invisible. It also takes courage to ride a horse. Ever heard the saying “courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway?” Horses are big- and sometimes scary- animals. It takes courage to get on them, especially when you’re living with different abilities.

2) Take pride in your work:
There are a lot of moving parts to a therapeutic riding center: taking care of the horses, treating clients, supporting volunteers, training staff, and just the day-to-day barn management tasks- it’s hard work, and it’s important to be proud of it. Working with horses is hard work too. When riders meet their goals- whether it’s as simple as successfully stopping their horse or advanced as finally picking up the correct lead at the canter- their pride in themselves is what makes all of the hard work worth it.

3) Always finish what you start:
When working with horses, nothing can be done half-way. Everyone learns this quickly at Horses Help, including the clients, volunteers, and staff, because no matter what’s on the agenda for the day- grooming and exercising horses, riding lessons, or unmounted sessions- the center depends on everyone working together, and finishing their tasks to keep operations flowing safely and smoothly.

4) Do What Has to Be Done:
Quick decisions have to be made with horses, and quick decisions can be challenging for people living with special needs. If a horse refuses to go to the right- what do you do? If a horse won’t stop- what do you do? Participants in equine-assisted therapy programs learn quickly that in order to stay safe with their horses, they have to be flexible, make a choice, and do what has to be done.

5) Be Tough but Fair:
Most people don’t understand how horse therapy works- they think it’s like a pony ride in the park- but it’s actually much more thoughtful than that. No one realizes the amount of training, education, and expertise required to work in the equine-assisted activities and therapies field. As a result, when considering where to pursue your equine therapy services, be tough but fair.

With COVID-19 making most therapies virtual, it’s more important now than ever that equine therapy services are available for those who need them. On this Saturday, November 7th, Horses Help is hosting “Barn Bash 2020,” where you can learn more about equine therapy and have the chance to win free services and opportunities to make your cowboy dreams come true. – just for tuning in!

We want to hear from you! What is your favorite code? Why? Write us, or send a video of yourself for a chance to be featured LIVE at the Barn Bash 2020 virtual event on Saturday, November 7th. See the video below to hear what people are saying about their favorite Code of the West.

Please comment, post and tag Horses Help on Facebook or Instagram:

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Regan Mays is an Arizona native, and lifelong horsewoman. She is a specialist in Equine Assisted Therapy, actress and producer. She PATH Certified in Therapeutic Riding Instruction and an Equine Specialist in Mental Health. She is the TR Program Director at the H.E.A.R.T Center. For more information, visit or follow her on Instagram @reganmmays.

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