No ordinary horse, of course, Buddy calls it a career

If there’s anyone who deserved a good retirement, it’s Buddy. And that’s what he’s getting tomorrow at age 30.

Buddy is a therapy horse with We Can Ride, a Minnetonka therapeutic horseback riding program for people with special needs.

The average length of service for a therapy horse is three years; Buddy has worked more than twice that.

He was a show horse back in the day, and after a retirement party on Friday, he’ll return to Laura Johnson, his former owner, the Sun Sentinel Sailor reports.

Johnson said she first met and worked with Buddy at a young age, as his owner was a friend of her parents and allowed Johnson to care for Buddy and ride him in competitions. Buddy’s first owner later asked Johnson if she wanted to buy Buddy: then only 16, she said she wanted nothing more, but was afraid she couldn’t afford him. The asking price, however, was $1.

After years of competing with Buddy at shows, Johnson decided it was time for him to retire, but couldn’t bring herself to sell him. Instead, she donated him to the We Can Ride program, which receives all its animals from generous owners willing to support the cause.

“I’m not certain what Chris’ life would’ve been like without We Can Ride and Buddy,” Linda Tedford wrote in nominating Buddy for Horse of the Year honors for the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. Her son has cerebral palsy and anxiety.

“But from the first moment he was up on that horse – Chris was hooked.” she wrote. “For the first time, he could feel what it was like to move effortlessly and with a proper gait. And as he continued riding, the movement he experienced and trunk control he practiced on horseback translated to his own gait when he was on the ground – a priceless gift for a kid with CP.”

She told the Sun Sentinel Sailor the hardest part of Buddy’s retirement was telling her son he won’t be able to ride Buddy anymore.