From racing to ending up in a “kill pen,” Matt’s Buddy is a horse with a checkered history. But today, he has a much more secure future helping children and teens, thanks to several wonderful people who rescued him.
Matty, as he’s now known, is The Barry Robinson Center’s (BRC) new horse for its equine-assisted learning program. BRC is sponsoring Matty’s care at Circle A Home for Horses in Virginia Beach.
“He’s quite a character, a lovely animal. He’s smart and grateful, and he has a kind eye,” said Marcia Wolfe, a Thoroughbred trainer from Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Wolfe bought Matty as a two-year old and raced him briefly until he suffered a bowed tendon. His racing days over, Matty went to a new owner about 10 years ago.
Fast forward to summer 2019, when Wolfe learned Matty was in a kill pen. A rescue group traced the horse to her as trainer of record and asked if she could help rescue him.
“He was special to us, so we picked him up and brought him home,” Wolfe said. But Matty had strangles, an equine respiratory disease. “He was thin and very sick. We put him in quarantine and kept him about 45 days, caring for him over the summer.”
That’s when Alicia Mahar came into the story. Mahar, founder of Circle A Home for Horses, contacted Wolfe and asked if she would consider donating the horse to her equine therapy program. Wolfe agreed and they made arrangements to transport Matty to Virginia Beach.
“We’re so glad to have helped get Matty a new home,” Wolfe said.
Mahar knew BRC was interested in sponsoring a horse to use for its equine outings at the farm. After evaluating Matty, she decided he’d be a great fit for BRC. At some point in Matty’s history, he reportedly spent time as a therapy horse, helping military veterans.
“All of us love Matty,” said Allyson Hagan, CRTS. “It’s been wonderful to work with him and watch him respond so well to our residents.”
BRC’s equine outings provide some residents with a valuable experience that supports treatment goals. In a six-week program, selected residents participate in activities such as grooming, feeding, haltering and leading a horse, alongside Hagan or Hannah Burch, CTRS, another one of BRC’s certified recreational therapists. Doing these activities together provides the therapist and resident with a milieu that allows them to work on building skills that BRC’s treatment team has identified for the resident.
To see Matty in action and learn more about him and his friends, follow his adventures on Instagram at @brctherapyanimals.