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Former race galloper thriving as therapy horse

By Jordan Gerrans

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Former galloper Holiday loves spending time with people but does not really enjoy being around other horses very much.

Now known as Big Red as his racing days have been finished for around seven years, the chestnut gelding has found his calling in life, while considering his personal interests.

As he does not always like being around other horses, Big Red spends his days helping people in Far North Queensland who have a disability or are going through drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Big Red is a part of the Equine Assisted Learning Program, which is run by Community Training Services.

Community Training Service's Founder and CEO Lara Baker says the 12-year-old gelding has helped hundreds of people in the three years he has been involved with their program.

“He showed a really lovely temperament in the sessions, which are like counselling with the horse there as well,” Baker said.

“He sees people with disabilities – some people who cannot talk - and a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation service.

“We are always working on people’s anxiety or with the different issues they have and when they have a win – such as calming themselves down or lessening their anxiety – then it is the horse that always offers the feedback that it is working.

“You can see that by the way the horse stands and the person can see it is working and receive that feedback.

“When people are getting therapy, they are usually going into that clinical setting, which a lot of people are uncomfortable with, and when you step out on to a paddock with a horse, clients are usually more relaxed.”

Baker explains that there is lots of different scenarios Big Red works in, including simple things like being walked around by people or even brushed and groomed.

Bill Kenning Next Racing

20.jpgBaker originally acquired Big Red as a trail riding horse for a couple of years before he transferred over to helping people.

In his racing days, Holiday had 23 career starts, greeting the judges first on one occasion as well as four other minor placings.

He started his racing days with trainer Trevor Whittington on the Gold Coast before eventually running his last couple of races in North Queensland with Townsville trainer Bill Kenning in early 2015.

Baker thinks the son of Hotel Grand has a perfect attitude to be a therapy horse.

“He has a very calm temperament,” she said.

“With other horses he used to be quite full on and aggressive towards them, even a bit bossy, but with people, he has never even pricked his ears up.

“People is his thing, he has such a nice, calm temperament.

“He has strong boundaries as well, but he will let you know in a kind way.”

While Big Red is not overly fond of other horses, he has found a little friend to spend his days with.

“In the paddock, his best friend is a little tiny mini called Ra Ra, who is his work buddy as well,” Baker said.

“He does not have much time for other horses and when Ra Ra came along, the other horses used to pick on her so she found that standing underneath Big Red was the safest thing to do.

“Their friendship started like that.”

As well as his work as a therapy horse, Big Red has recently started his jumping career with Baker’s 12-year-old daughter over the last few months, which is an activity the former racehorse thoroughly enjoys.