Champagne, affectionately known as "Champ", was a therapy horse for over 15 years. The 17.1 hand liver chestnut Oldenburg
gelding worked five days a week carrying countless riders, big and small, providing over 12,000 hours of service in the field of therapeutic riding and helping over 5,000 people. He worked in nearly every program that Therapeutic Horsemanship
of Wentzville, Missouri, offered, from Hippotherapy
; Freedom Reins
(a veteran program) to Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
. In 2012, Champ was awarded the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship
International Equine of the Year.
At Therapeutic Horsemanship
, Champ worked in the Equine Facilitated mental health programs; with the competition team qualifying for and competing in the United Professional Horsemen's Association (UPHA)
Exceptional Challenge Cup National Finals a record 10 times; as a mount for therapeutic vaulting; and as a dressage mount. Champ's rocking horse canter was a favorite for PATH International instructors in training during their riding tests, and his "power trot" quickly became a favorite to watch during countless demonstrations and exhibitions.
Champagne was a quiet, dedicated, and a true steady mount for all riders, young and old, big and small. He was known for his ability to lunge himself in a perfect circle, with or without a lunge line; his amazing "equine senior" dance that he performed every day at feeding time; his talent at untying himself and letting himself out of any and every stall (latched or not); and his loud screeching whinny when he would yell for his true love, Ali the Oldenburg
Shelley Nanny, the barn manager at Therapeutic Horsemanship, met Champ when she first started as an instructor. "At that point, Champ was mostly used for our bigger and more independent riders. As the years went by and Champ slowed down, I was able to watch more and more riders drawn to him as the calming force in their lives," said Nanny.
He was the chosen mane to cry on when a young boy lost his mother and the first to bond with a woman veteran with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), newly home from Afghanistan. He was a favorite of Jennifer Francisco, a young volunteer who was later tragically killed in a car accident. At her parents' request, Champ was present at her burial, the once spunky American Warmblood
, calmly ate grass as all said goodbye to a friend on that chilly December afternoon.
His bond with a young man with Autism is the most prevalent and unbreakable. Because of Champ, Vincent learned how to express himself. For the first time, Vincent was able to talk about his emotions and feelings, but only through Champ's eyes. When Vincent was sad, he said "Champ is sad about not winning the blue ribbon." When Vincent was worried he said, "Champ is worried about the horse show." This was a huge milestone in Vincent's development and words cannot do this amazing horse justice.
Lori Cotton, Vincent's mother, summed it up best when she said, "So, how do you thank a horse, who is there for your child, when no one else is knocking on the door asking him to come out and play? You hope that his legacy will be that of greatness; which is all that this horse is, great!"