07/26/12 — Draft horse donated to therapeutic program

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Draft horse donated to therapeutic program

By Kelly Corbett
Published in News on July 26, 2012 1:46 PM


Heather Bauer, left, and her children, Isabella, Connor, far right, and Jacob, rear, are seen with the Belgian horse, Toby, they donated to the Stepping Stone Riding Program.

He's described as gentle -- even though he weighs in at 1,800 pounds.

Toby, a 16-year-old Belgian draft horse, was donated around Christmastime to the Stepping Stone Therapeutic Riding Program by the Bauer family.

And now he has about 12 consistent riders each week.

"He's kind of a gentle giant," Heather Bauer said. "We donated him with the hope that we could still ride him."

Her two sons, Jacob and Connor, and her 2-year-old daughter, Isabella, ride Toby and their other horses at the stables.

"If we brought Toby here, we would still get to see him here, and everyone else would get to see him as well," Mrs. Bauer said.

Riding is something the whole family is able to do together. Jacob, 11, and Connor, 9, began riding two years ago.

Mrs. Bauer, who has been riding horses since she was 7 years old, said she was excited when her children showed an interest.

They bought Toby a year ago for $650, and he was estimated by a veterinarian to be about 14 years old.

Mrs. Bauer wanted the other children to be able to play with Toby, and for Toby to be able to be around the other horses.

Isabella's horse, Merry Legs, also resides at Stepping Stone Stables, located at 1194 Capps Bridge Road in Pikeville.

The Bauers live in Walnut Creek.

"My kids love it here, so we make the drive," Mrs. Bauer said. "That was our whole reason...Now, everyone is here in one place."

Isabella started riding when she was 15 months old, making her Jana Foote's youngest student.

Ms. Foote, program director, said she refers to Toby as "Mr. Big Head" even though Toby had his name long before the Bauers purchased him.

Before Toby came to Stepping Stones, they helped him gain 100 pounds to get him back up to a healthy weight.

Ms. Foote said he is now the perfect horse for larger individuals who want a gentle horse.

In October, Toby will carry two riders at the North Carolina Special Olympics Equestrian Games in Raleigh.

"His disposition is perfect for therapeutic riders," Ms. Foote said. "He's slow, he's steady. It's hard to find the perfect temperament horse for level one riders."

Level one riders can walk, trot and stop their horses on command, she said.

And now Toby even has groupies, Ms. Foote said.

Connor showed his trust in Toby by placing a treat on top of his head and letting him eat it off.

"He's a very gentle horse, easy-going, kind of a good horse all around," he said.

Toby is expected to live to be about 30 years old, and is only the second Belgian horse that has been part of the program so far.

Horse donations to the program are not rare and about 15 to 20 horses are at the stables at any given time.

In addition to donating Toby to the program, the Bauers have donated their time.

"Anything we can get the kids involved in and be a part of, we try to do," Mrs. Bauer said.