Orion: A Remarkable Therapist

Credit: NFTRA

We are pleased to present the winners of our third annual Readers’ Choice Awards, honouring remarkable horses and horse people for their achievements and contributions to Canada’s horse industry.

Our sincere appreciation goes our generous Readers’ Choice Awards sponsor, Bucas, who graciously donated fabulous prizes to our winners. Thank you to everyone who nominated and helped make our Readers’ Choice Awards a success again this year.

Congratulations to our deserving winners.

The 2012 Readers' Choice Awards Winners Are (please read more at each link):
Grated Coconut: Born to Buck
Duane Latimer: Canada's Reining Royalty
Pippa Hodge: A driving force behind therapeutic riding in Canada
Karen Brain: Anything is possible
Hickstead: “He was the best horse in the world”
Eve Mainwaring: "A tremendous horsewoman"
Dianne Tidball: Matriarch of Thunderbird Show Park
Somebeachsomewhere: Racehorse of the Decade
Orion: A Remarkable Therapist
Bill desBarres: "A lifetime in the service of the horse"

Bramber’s Orion is a 16-year-old Norwegian Fjord who works at the North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association. The stocky gelding was born on the prairies and NFTRA welcomed him into their program in 2002. Since then, he has won the hearts of riders, staff, and volunteers alike with his unflappable disposition, friendly nature, happy work ethic, and soft brown eyes.

If horseback riding is the perfect therapy, then Orion is as close as they come to the perfect therapy horse. And to say that Orion has a big fan club at NFTRA would be an understatement.

“He deals with all kinds of situations that would send an average horse into panic on a daily basis,” says Fionna Christensen, head instructor at NFTRA. “Many people depend on him to provide their weekly therapy and he does so with a good attitude and enjoys his job. He has been with the program for several years already and will probably work there for the rest of his life as unlike many horses that only last in a therapy program for a couple of years, he shows no signs of stress of fatigue and gets better at his job every year.”

“As a volunteer, what I love about him is his awareness of his students and how gentle he is around them. We have riders who like to feed him treats and have to do so from a chair. He waits patiently to be called forward and takes the treats gently from the bowl, while also taking care where he places his big feet. Every day he has to deal with riders swinging legs, bouncing, pulling on his mouth, flapping reins and generally being unbalanced, but he just gets on with his job with no complaints,” says Mairead Symons of Anmore, BC.

“This wonderful Fjord brings a sense of calm to every rider he carries. He has never had a negative reaction even when a rider is having a bad day. Not to mention… he is SO kissable!” says Marie-Jo Lafleur of Maple Ridge, BC.

“He doesn’t mind the lift used for riders or the time it takes for people to mount,” says Sheila Morgan of Port Coquitlam, BC. “He is always up for hugs and kisses and makes everyone feel calm and happy when they are with him. One of the riders calls him ‘my prince’.”

“When my daughter, Naomi, rides Orion, she is, for a change, full of confidence because he is such a patient and tolerant animal,” says Phyllis Siu of Coquitlam, BC. “He has a remarkable calming effect on Naomi who has the challenge of autism. When she rides him, she is no longer full of anxiety and doesn’t need to ‘stim’ and flap her hands. Orion is a remarkable horse because he elicits smiles and laughter and singing from Naomi throughout her lesson. He brings out the best in her!”

“Orion has an ability to bring peace into my spirit,” says Tracy Drott of Mission, BC, who describes the horse’s empathy. “Orion accepts and seems to know the special place he has in the lives of his riders. He has been a part of the healing and restoring of body and mind. Orion was seen comforting someone after the loss of a loved one – two people were hugging and crying, and he got his big head in there somehow and signed along with them. Orion’s work would be unbearable for many an average horse, but Orion is not average. His exceptional nature does a tremendous amount of good in the community, which is what makes him so remarkable.”

Main article photo: Courtesy of NFTRA

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