Goodie, the 2005 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship
Horse of the Year and 2001 PATH Region 6 Horse of the Year, carried those impressive accolades behind an unassuming demeanor. She was a foundation Appaloosa
with a sparse mane and tail, a wispy forelock, and a back that swayed with age. But those who were lucky enough to know Goodie thought of her as the most beautiful horse in the world. Her patience, kindness, and loving personality showed her riders "“ and all those who met her "“ that true beauty comes from within.
Any rider could feel safe on Goodie. She established herself as the go-to mount at Midwest Therapeutic Riding Program
(MTRP) for children taking on new challenges, which ranged from working on head and trunk control to learning to canter. Goodie's extensive show background, which included western pleasure, hunt seat pleasure, saddle seat and team penning, made her a fun ride for a more advanced student. But her true specialty was helping timid new riders gain confidence and strength.
"She was a hero who helped children with special needs achieve their goals," said Stephanie Kubarth, Director of the Midwest Therapeutic Riding Program
. With Goodie's help, Kubarth added, "a child who couldn't walk did. A child who had never spoken before said her first words. A child who never smiled giggled while riding Goodie."
Riders and volunteers at MTRP thought of Goodie as a generous, gentle "Grandma" who always seemed to know who needed a little extra affection. She would stand stock still as children groomed her, shift her weight or stop to balance unsteady riders, and lower her head to greet children in wheelchairs. Along with taking care of the children who rode her, Goodie became a favorite with new volunteers, who learned to lead, groom, and tack up with the reliable mare as their partner.
Goodie's nurturing personality inspired devotion in return. For her 30th birthday, the children at MTRP threw her a surprise party, complete with a party hat and tiara for their beloved mare. The program's annual horse show is named in her honor.
Over Goodie's seven years of service as a therapy horse at MTRP (1999-2006), she was living proof that equine senior citizens need not simply fade away in a back paddock with heads hanging and joints stiffening. Instead, many retirees, with the right credentials, can enjoy productive golden years aiding people, especially children, in their their life journeys. Most of Goodie's riders were children with cerebral palsy, Rhett syndrome, autism, or physical disabilities.
One such rider was Nicole Flynn of Friendship, Wisconsin, then 11, who had spent most of her childhood overcoming physical issues including vision problems. The Flynns drove almost 350 miles round trip each week for Nicole to benefit from Goodie's therapy. Nicole's mother, Cindi, explained, "When Nicole first met Goodie, we knew there was a special bond there. Goodie would give Nicole lots of kisses."
"Normally, we take 30 days before we use a horse in the program," said Kubarth. "They need to get used to wheelchairs, ramps, a variety of games and loud, unexpected noises. Not Goodie! We started using her after a week." From week one, she'd stand perfectly still while children groomed her, she'd stop if she thought a child was falling, and dropped her head down to those in wheelchairs. Nurturing came naturally to this much loved mare.
Goodie's power to inspire and motivate was such that her influence is still felt at MTRP even after her death. Riders and volunteers remember her fondly and tell stories about her. When she passed away, her vet offered to bury her at his stable. Her grave, marked with a plaque and an apple tree in her memory, is alongside the driveway so that children in wheelchairs can visit. As Kubarth said, "I was once told a horse dies two times: the physical death and the death when people stop talking about them. Goodie will live on for a long, long time."