Many of our therapy horses have come from backgrounds of abuse, neglect or physical and mental hardship. Each one came to the Swan Center; received the care they needed to heal and recover from their ordeals; and now lead happy, productive lives as therapy horses, who are of great service to others in need.
Whenever anyone comes to the Swan Center seeking horse therapy, we like to pair him or her with a horse who has endured a situation similar to their own. People are often inspired and motivated, when they hear the horse’s story, and in many instances they feel that the horse can relate personally to their own situation.
We once worked with a 6 year-old child who had been repeatedly, sexually molested by a family member. She had been removed from the family, and placed in a secure setting, but her counselors told us that her healing had not begun, because she would not talk to anyone about what had happened to her. We paired her with one of our horses, who had also been abused. She listened to the horse’s story, and responded with sad, compassionate eyes. Later in the day, Rose overheard the child quietly telling the horse what had been done to her. At one point she said to the horse, “I know you understand.” In later months, her therapist said that the day she spent with the horse, changed everything for the child, and she was able to move forward and fully engage in her healing process.
The following stories only touch upon a few of the amazing things our animals have experienced, and the many ways they have helped people to heal.
Blaze - Age 23 Rowdy - Age 25 King - Age 22 Brio - Age 20
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Abandoned
Who they have helped: Children and adults living in fearful situations; mentally and physically challenged children and adults.
Blaze, Rowdy, and King were found living as a wild herd, in the Florida Everglades. They were apparently abandoned there and left to fend for themselves. They were accompanied, by a pregnant mare that gave birth to Brio shortly after her rescue. The Swan Center was asked to offer them sanctuary, because they were not ideal candidates for immediate adoption, due to their wild state. The little herd readily took to their training and grew to love and trust people. Their small size and smooth Paso Fino gait made them ideal therapy horses. They have helped many fearful children and adults regain their confidence, and find their way to a healthier state of mind.
Cherokee - Age 35
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Owner surrendered him because she didn’t think he was safe.
Who he has helped: Children and adults living with painful situations.
Cherokee is one of our oldest and sweetest horses. When his owner approached the Swan Center and requested sanctuary for him, she said he was too dangerous and unpredictable to be ridden. Rose examined him and informed the owner that his behavior was the result of an improperly fitted saddle, which was causing him considerable pain every time he was ridden. The woman wasn’t convinced and surrendered him. Rose changed his saddle and immediately rode him on the trail. He was a perfect gentleman, and became a summer camp favorite and an amazing therapy horse. Individuals living with painful situations, relate especially to Cherokee, who loves being scratched on his back, and will ask politely with a soft nicker.
Cisco - Age 18
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Purchased for 4H gymkhana games
Who he has helped: Children and adults who have trouble connecting with others; Rose’s daughter.
Cisco was purchased by Rose to serve as a gymkhana (games on horseback) horse for her daughter Ashley when she was in 4-H. The day that they went to meet Cisco, his owner demonstrated how well he moved, by chasing him around a pen with a rake in her hand. She said that they were selling him because her daughter wanted a better horse. Rose and Ashley recognized Cisco’s great personality and potential, and were happy to purchase him and offer him sanctuary. At first Cisco was not very interested in connecting with humans, but as soon as he realized that there were humans who wanted to communicate with him as a fellow being, he began to seek out that connection more and more, and eventually became a healing force for many children who had trouble connecting with others.
At one point, Ashley was riding Cisco bareback. She had a cold and felt tired, so she rested her head on his back and fell sound asleep. Cisco wasn’t tied to anything, and he stood as still as a stone, not moving a muscle, until Ashley woke up and urged him forward. Today Ashley and Cisco remain great friends. In recent years, Cisco’s reliable nature has helped Ashley cope with a medical condition that caused her to lose some of her basic freedoms. Ashley takes great comfort in the fact that Cisco has always been there for her, in both sickness and in health.
Comanche - Age 8 Lightning - Age 8 Duchess - Age 19
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Had been sold for slaughter.
Who they have helped: People who are seeking a second chance in life; children and adults who learned patience and compassion, while raising and caring for foals.
The Swan Center purchased Duchess - mother of Lightning, and Comanche’s mother Nugget from a kill buyer, the day before they were scheduled to be shipped to a slaughter-house in Mexico. The two mares made a 2 ½ hour trailer ride to the Swan Center, and 45 minutes after arriving, Comanche was born. Duchess gave birth to Lightning two weeks later. Sadly, Nugget passed away a few years later. Duchess arrived in a very wild state but has since become a gentle girl, who loves to be groomed. The boys have grown up into handsome guys, and have participated in many therapy programs. Lightning has a keen insight into the needs of people, and Comanche is famous for his big, funny smile, which brings a healing laugh to everyone who encounters him.
Cookie - Age 17 Eyore - Age 17
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Donated for our therapy programs.
Who they have helped: Children and adults who are fearful; those confined to a wheel chair or with special needs; anyone in need of a good, healing laugh.
Cookie is a miniature horse, and Eyore is a miniature donkey. They lived together at a horse farm in Georgia, before being donated to the Swan Center for use in our therapy programs. They are a cute little pair and a delight to all who interact with them. Cookie is comical by nature, and her antics bring lots of laughs. Eyore is our animal nurse. He sets off the alarm whenever another animal is in any kind of distress, and stays by their side, until he feels they are on the mend.
Dakota - Age 36
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Neglected
Who he has helped: Mentally and physically challenged children and adults.
Dakota is our oldest horse. When he was a young horse, Rose discovered him, while shopping for a horse trailer. She looked at a trailer, which did not meet her needs, and told the seller that she was not interested. The man told her that if she took the trailer, he would throw in two horses to sweeten the deal. Upon investigation, Rose saw that both horses were in a bad state of neglect, so she bought the trailer to save the horses. Dakota was one of these horses.
Dakota was a very talented trail and summer camp horse, but his true calling was that of a therapy horse. During one of his therapy riding sessions, with a physically challenged child on his back, a volunteer approached Rose and told her that Dakota was arching his back, shifting his weight from side to side, and walking in a gingerly fashion. Rose asked the volunteer to dismount the child, and ride Dakota so she could observe him. Dakota went effortlessly from a brisk walk into a trot and canter, with no apparent problems. The child was remounted and once again Dakota resumed his hesitant walk and arched back. Upon further observation, Rose realized that the child was very unsteady, and was swaying from one side to the other. Dakota was arching his back and shifting his weight, in an attempt to keep the child balanced in the saddle. Whenever Dakota had an able bodied rider on his back, he would challenge them, but when he had a special needs child on his back, he instantly transformed into a diligent guardian, and did his best to accommodate their needs. Dakota worked as a therapy and summer camp horse until he turned 29. He retired that year at the end of camp season, and has spent the years since, ruling over the rest of the herd with a will of iron.
Dreamer - Age 31
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Neglected and in need of emergency medical attention.
Who she has helped: Children and adults enduring hardship; physically and mentally challenged individuals.
Rose discovered Dreamer, while visiting a boarding stable. Dreamer was a young foal at the time. She was standing in a pasture, next to her mother, and she was in a very emaciated state, with large infected sores all over her body. Rose asked her owner why the foal was in such deplorable condition. The woman replied that she couldn’t afford to feed both of the horses, so she only fed the mother. Rose offered to take the foal off the woman’s hands, but the woman said she wouldn’t give her away for free. She told Rose she would have to pay $375 for her. Rose paid the money and took Dreamer back to the Swan Center, where she underwent months of specialized veterinary treatments, before regaining her health. Dreamer went on to spend many wonderful years as a summer camp, trail and therapy horse. She is a sweet old gal now and loves being fussed over.
Dusty - Age 16 Willow - Age 10
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Owner surrender/one scheduled for euthanasia.
Who they have helped: Children with special needs; physically challenged individuals; those who are seeking a second chance in life.
Dusty and Willow were living on a cattle ranch in Colorado, and their owner no longer wanted them. Dusty’s hooves were dangerously overgrown and his front feet turned in so badly that he literally tripped over them. Willow, even though she was only 5 years old, was going to be euthanized, because she could not be ridden, due to a problem with her back. The Swan Center offered them sanctuary, and from the time they joined our herd, they have made a wonderful contribution as therapy horses for children with special needs.
Faellyn - Age 6 Irish - Age 4 Isadora - Age 21 Zorro – Age 30
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Owner surrender due to hardship.
Who they have helped: People who are seeking evidence that with love, all things are possible.
Rose and her daughter Ashley had always dreamed of owning a Gypsy Vanner horse. They were notified that a woman, who was in a hardship situation, was selling one at a reduced price. Rose and Ashley made a four-hour trek to see the horse, and when they got there they were introduced to Faellyn and her mother, Isadora, who was pregnant again. The woman explained that she was about to lose her home and was having difficulty caring for her animals. She also needed to find homes for some of her older horses. Rose purchased Faellyn, and gave sanctuary to Zorro, a tall black horse, which the woman had brought to the United States, by plane from New Zealand.
A short time later, the woman contacted Rose again, and asked if she would give sanctuary to Isadora, who was born in England. Rose accepted Isadora and suspected a problem with her pregnancy. She transported Isadora to a specialty equine hospital, and found out that she had an infection in the placenta, and the foal only had a 50/50 chance of surviving, if she was put on an expensive course of medications throughout the pregnancy. Isadora then spent the last two months of her pregnancy at the equine hospital, before giving birth to a beautiful, healthy filly named Irish. The hospital and medication bills for Isadora came to $7000. The Swan Center decided to sponsor a baby shower fundraiser for Irish. People came from far and wide to see the baby Gypsy Vanner and to participate in the festivities. By the end of the day, the bills had been paid. The Gypsy youngsters are still learning their manners, and love being pranksters. We trust that they will one day become perfect little therapy horses, like their very patient mother, Isadora.
Lil Prince - Age 17
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Request from a rescue organization.
Who he has helped: Children and adults who are fearful; children and adults confined to a wheel chair or with special needs.
The Swan Center received a request for sanctuary, for a small Shetland pony they had rescued and adopted out to a family in our state. The family had run into a hardship situation and could no longer keep him. We were asked to take him, to spare the rescue organization the expense of shipping him back to Florida. We accepted him and he quickly joined Cookie and Eyore as a therapy horse. Lil Prince is a precious little guy with tiny ears and a great big heart.
Moonie - Age 25
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Owner surrender/untrained and unreliable.
Who she has helped: People who are fearful; children and adults with special needs.
Rose was hired by a friend to train her newly acquired horse, Moonie. Moonie had only been used as a brood mare and had never been ridden, although many had tried. She was a very skittish, fearful and somewhat dangerous horse to handle. Her owner eventually felt that Moonie was more than she could take on, and asked if the Swan Center would give her sanctuary. Moonie was then trained for riding and therapy work, and is now a calm, gentle lady, who is loved by children and adults alike.
Nutmeg - Age 22
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Neglect and starvation/request of a rescue organization.
Who she has helped: Children and adults who have been neglected or abused; those dealing with chronic health issues.
Nutmeg came to us at the request of a rescue organization. She was found abandoned at a farm in Florida, along with several other horses, who did not survive. She was under one year of age and in a badly emaciated state, with huge sores all over her body. The rescue organization nursed her back to health, then asked if we would offer her sanctuary, because she had been through so much, and they wanted her to have a forever home. Nutmeg is a very sweet, gentle soul, with crystal blue eyes. Nutmeg has experienced long term damage from not receiving proper nutrition as a baby, so she can never be ridden, but serves beautifully as a therapy horse.
Prince - Age 30+
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Owner surrender/neglect/abuse.
Who he has helped: Those who have endured neglect and abuse; special needs children.
Rose was contacted, by a man who was seeking sanctuary for his daughter’s horse. He said that she was no longer interested in him. He didn’t want to sell the horse, even though he had spent considerable money on him. Rose was concerned that the horse was being neglected and went to investigate. She found the horse alone in a barn, confined to a very dark stall. It was obvious that he had been in there for quite some time. When Rose led the horse out into the sunlight, he panicked and took off. After a long chase in the pouring rain, and across 4 lanes of traffic, Rose was able to safely catch him. The next task was to get him to go into the trailer. He was terrified and refused several times. Rose knew that with patience, the horse would eventually go in. The owner didn’t want to spend any more time in the rain, so he elicited the help of another person at the barn. They came out with a long sharp whip and began beating Prince severely. Rose had to stand by and watch helplessly, because technically Prince did not yet belong to the Swan Center, since the ownership paper work had not yet been exchanged. It took many years for Prince to recover from the many traumas he had experienced. He always had a nervous, worried look, and would spook at any sudden movements. Over time, he relaxed and enjoyed his years as a summer camp, trial and therapy horse. He continues to serve as a therapy horse, in his retirement, and has developed into a very happy, oldster.
Shoshoni - Age unknown – over 25.
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Owner surrender/abuse
Who she has helped: Those recovered from abuse and trauma; children and adults overcoming fear.
Rose received a call from a woman who purchased Shoshoni from a sale, because she saw two men behind the barn, beating her severely. When she asked why they were doing this, they said they were angry because the horse didn’t sell. She offered them what money she had, took Shoshoni home and released her into a pasture. She then spent the next three days trying to catch her. Shoshoni was completely crazed and hysterical, and was only able to be caught when a group of neighbors pitched in. The woman asked if we would offer Shoshoni sanctuary. It took 9 months of patient work, before Shoshoni healed from her trauma. Today, she delights those who work with her, when she looks at them with her large, wondrous eyes. She is a happy, trusting soul and has inspired many, who were healing from trauma, to give life another try.
Snicker - Age 28 Star - Age 28
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Owner surrender/neglect.
Who they have helped: Star -Those recovering from a stroke or dealing with physical challenges.
Snicker - anyone striving for more patience and increased personal awareness.
The Swan Center was contacted, by the owners of a riding stable, because they had a horse that was very pregnant. They didn’t initially know that the horse was pregnant. They just thought that she was getting fat and lazy, so they fed her less and worked her harder over jumps, until she was nearly in a state of collapse. It was only then that they called in a Vet and found out that she was about to give birth any day. They didn’t feel they were equipped to deal with a foal, so they asked if we could offer her sanctuary. When the mare arrived, she was so weak that she could barely lift her nose off the ground. She received around the clock care, as staff members took turns massaging her and sleeping next to her in the barn. On the tenth night, she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, filly, named Star.
A few months later we received a call from the same stable. One of their lesson horses, used for jumping, had surprised them by giving birth to foal. The foal was now 4 months old, and had never been handled. It was completely wild. They asked if we could offer her sanctuary, and if we could come and capture her. When we arrived, we were introduced to Snicker, aka banshee woman. She was a completely wild creature. She is as smart as a whip, can out think most humans, and at the same time can worm her way into the heart of anyone with a free spirit.
Snicker and Star grew up together. They were both summer camp, trail and therapy horses for many years. Star suffered a stroke some years ago, and is no longer steady enough for riding, but she still gives her all, and serves as an inspiration to those who are dealing with physical challenges.
Sugar – Age 28
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Retired cow pony with a severely arthritic knee.
Who she has helped: Children and adult dealing with physical limitations.
Sugar was a Colorado mountain cow pony for most of her life. She served as an all around horse – driving cattle; riding fences that needed repair; and beloved family pet. She developed a severely arthritic knee and had to be retired. Her owner’s wanted her to continue having a sense of purpose, so they requested sanctuary for her, with the hope that she could be in programs with children. She participated in one children’s camp and a few very slow trail rides, and then transitioned into being a great therapy horse for ground work. She is quite the old character, and has the wisdom and no nonsense approach to life, which only an old cow pony can truly have. Sugar takes her role as a therapy horse seriously, and tackles each day with gusto.
Sunday - Age 20 Pistol - Age 20
Reason for being offered sanctuary: They were born at the Swan Center.
Who they have helped: Children and adults who learned patience and self-discipline, while raising and caring for foals; adults and children who were studying to become horse trainers.
Sunday and Pistol were born at the Swan Center, two weeks apart. They have the same father, and grew up together. They were raised to be therapy horses, and to participate in demonstrations of round pen and desensitization work with horses. They are shining examples of horses that were loved, cared for, and properly trained from birth. They brought so much joy to children and adults alike, as they grew from little, precious foals into kind, respectful adults.
Thunder - Age 28+
Reason for being offered sanctuary: Purchased upon retirement from a college polo team.
Who he has helped: Special needs children; those recovering from abusive or painful situations.
Rose was contacted by a student attending CSU College, who was a member of the college’s polo team. She shared that a wonderful, older horse was being retired from the beginners polo program, and he was such a special guy, that she really wanted to make sure he had a good home. She asked if Rose would consider buying him. Rose was intrigued by the sincerity of the student’s request, so she went to the college to see him. When Rose arrived, Thunder was participating in a polo match. He was barely moving – definitely the slowest horse there. Rose could tell from the empty look in his eyes, that his heart was just not into the game at all. Upon further inspection, Rose noticed that his body had three deep fire-brands, so he had obviously been through a series of owners, and had suffered at the hands of each. Rose bought him on the spot and took him back to the Swan Center, where he quickly became the favorite horse of many special needs children. He is a happy camper now, and his timid nature makes him completely approachable by everyone, regardless of any physical or mental challenges they may be facing.
100% of your sponsorship donation goes to Animal Care; Horse Feed, Farrier, and Vet services, critical to the success of Swan Center Outreach. Swan Center Outreach offers Educational Programs with Horses for Children and Adults. For 30 years, our programs have provided Educational, Therapeutic and Spiritual Value while increasing one’s Personal Awareness and Effective Communication skills.
Donations to Swan Center Outreach are tax deductible, under the 501 (c) (3) IRS guidelines. Donations specified for horse care are used in their entirety for feed, animal supplies, farrier work, veterinary care and housing. To donate directly to Swan Center Outreach, use the link below or mail a check to:
Swan Center Outreach
23819 Claymore Way
Valencia, CA. 91354