top of page

An old friend

Meet Patou. He is a 19-year-old Canadian Cheval. He is one of those horses who always lands well (no pun intended). He is living his purpose. He helps humans who need a little extra help.

I met him at a riding school in 2015, just as I was beginning my journey as a therapeutic riding instructor, and learning basic riding skills. He was one of the first horses to teach me how to go over fences. During my brief career of show jumping, Patou and I went to a couple of local shows together.

If you are a horse person, you will understand when I say HE TOOK CARE OF ME! Like everything I approach, I wanted the experience of entering a two-phase competition that included jumping over fences in an arena and completing a dressage test.

Patou never had any interest in competition or shows. There are some horses who absolutely love the spotlight. Let’s be clear: no horse cares about a ribbon or a trophy. This is food for the human ego.

But, there is no question that all horses like a job or a purpose. Like humans, each has different abilities and is suited for different jobs.

Patou is a therapy horse. He loves his job. His purpose is to support riders who cannot find support in the constructs of normal society. I think about him often. In 2019, I found out that he was sold and no longer at the riding school. I did an internet search since his name is unique and discovered he is part of the herd at the Upreach Therapeutic Equestrian Center in New Hampshire.

Old friends have a responsibility to check on each other. A few days ago, I called Upreach to inquire about Patou. It brings me joy to share that Patou is thriving! He is doing unmounted and mounted lessons. He was an instant fit with their therapy program.

I estimate about one of ten horses are well-suited for therapeutic work. It is a hard job! Patou is a natural. He is solid and adaptable. Most importantly, he likes learning. During the phone conversation, I learned something new about Patou. When Upreach brings a new horse to the herd, they pair the horse with Patou. He teaches other horses!

Patou is a friend to many. His name is derived from the word “pastre”, meaning shepard in old French. Unlike a herd dog, the role of a guard dog is to protect the sheep from predators. Usually in the lead, the patou inspects the terrain before the sheep arrive. Patou, the horse, lives to his name.

Hats off to you, Patou, my old friend. Do you have an old friend like Patou that you think about? Leave a comment below and share your story.

bottom of page