a photo of tulip the horse
A portrait of Tulip who was a therapy horse at the NAC for nearly 15 years. Photo by Jan Drake.
Her name was Tulip. She had a chestnut-colored coat and loved a good carrot snack. Her mane and forelock, the tussle of hair that falls between the ears, was her “pride and joy,” as Jan Drake, NAC’s Equestrian Resource Manager puts it. “She had an air about her like, ‘I’m the queen bee around here and y’all better know it,’” Jan said.

Our horses are valued alongside their human co-workers at the NAC. When it was time to get down to business for a lesson at the Equestrian Center, Tulip would never disappoint. All who knew her said what a versatile horse she was and would comment on her excellent temperament.

“Being a therapy horse is very hard on a horse,” Jan said. “When a participant gets on, the horse has to have this sixth sense of who is on their back. It’s as if they say ‘Ok, it’s time. I have to take care of them’…”

According to our Equestrian staff, Tulip could work any type of lesson from beginner to Hippotherapy. She handled her time on-duty with grace, purpose and a strong work ethic. Our participants can start out as young as two-years-old in hippotherapy, a treatment strategy used by Physical and Occupational Therapists as well as Speech Language PathologistsJordan Johnson, physical therapist at the NAC said, “Riding a horse for the first time can be very scary for these little ones. Tulip was the perfect horse to start with.”

Tulip the NAC horse with participant on her back, assisted by a volunteer and NAC staff member
An NAC participant rides Tulip with assistance from an Equestrian Program volunteer, and Jordan Johnson, physical therapist, (far right). Photo by Don Cook.

Tulip was able to tolerate any difficult situation. According to Jordan, a participant’s walker constantly pushing against her side, louder outbursts of excitement, or unbalanced movement never phased her, “she continued to do her job without any complaints.”

Participants in the NAC Equestrian Program work on balance, coordination, strength, brain stimulation and so much more. Jordan shared about a participant she and Tulip worked with who had cerebral palsy. “This little girl had always loved horses but never had the opportunity to ride,” Jordan said. “I knew that Tulip would be the perfect horse because of her narrow width and her adaptability.

two NAC horses posing for a portrait
NAC horses Joey (left) and Tulip (right) striking a pose for the camera. Photo by Jan Drake.
For 19 years Tulip was a fixture at our barn, 15 of which were spent working lessons with our participants. She was able to spend her golden years at the NAC Ranch thanks to the Pat Moran Family Foundation which provided a lifetime sponsorship of our beautiful four-legged friend.

“It was amazing to see how [a participant’s] relationship with Tulip helped their relationships with me and others around them,” Jordan said. “Horses like Tulip are a crucial part of my job.”

Tulip was prized member of our NAC herd—truly one of a kind. She was 25-years-old when she crossed to greener pastures in May 2020.

Looking for a way to give back? You can support our Equestrian Programs by Sponsoring a Horse in our herd!