NAC Horse Criteria

What it takes

It takes a very special horse to become a part of the National Ability Center (NAC) herd- Working in an equine assisted services program is a mentally and physically challenging job for our equine friends!

As working animals, our horses must be in good physical condition and excellent health. They need to possess a gentle, tolerant temperament and good work ethic. They must want to do their very special job of safely carrying participants ranging from children as young as two to adults who are seniors.

Part of the Family

Because of their important role, we are very selective in determining which horses are accepted. If you are considering donating or leasing your horse, please review the following information:

  • Must be completely saddle broke and trained. NAC is not able to accept green or untrained horses.
  • Full and complete vision and hearing
  • Sound at the walk, trot/jog, and canter/lope with three rhythmic and balanced gaits (The quality of the horse’s movement is what most benefits the participant)
  • Must not bite, buck, rear, kick, pace, crib, wind-suck, or have any other vices
  • Capable of working 1-2 times per day during a 5-6 day work week (one full day off per week)
  • Minimal history of chronic lameness
  • Between 8 and 18 years of age for donation. Older horses may be considered as care lease prospects
  • Between 13 and 16.2 hands tall
  • Geldings preferred, mares considered; no stallions, no exceptions
  • Well-mannered when alone or with a group of other equines
  • Quiet and well-mannered on the ground and accepting of multiple riders and handlers
  • Must work easily in hand, and tolerate one or two people walking and trotting beside it, while also carrying a rider
  • Obedient to both voice and leg signals
  • Forgiving of rider mistakes and capable of being ridden by beginners and children
  • Comfortable with loud noises and quick, unexpected movements
  • Accept novel items and environments (i.e., balls being tossed, bubbles, and more)

Trial Period

Owner/donor must agree to at least a 90-day trial period where their horse is stabled at our facility while its suitability for work with people with disabilities is thoroughly evaluated. During this trial period, the horse will be exposed to therapy equipment, mounting blocks/ramps, walkers, wheelchairs, toys, balls, side walkers, leaders, loud noises, sudden movements, unbalanced riding weight, and applied pressure on all parts of the body. The horse’s body language and reactions will be noted and graded. Also taken into consideration will be: 1. Does the horse accept and comply with what is being asked? 2. Does the horse demonstrate a patient and tolerant attitude? 3. How quickly does the horse improve upon any negative reactions?

Quality Care

The National Ability Center provides full care for each of our horses, including:

  • Hay 3 times a day
  • Balanced feed daily with necessary supplements and medications
  • Regular exercise based on short and long-term training goals
  • Outdoor dry-lot accommodations year-round in small herds matched by personality and dietary needs
  • Shelter and ample fresh water available always
  • Quality veterinary and farrier care

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To Be Considered

To submit your horse for consideration, please complete the Prospective Horse Screening. For questions, please contact Marci Bender, Equestrian Program Senior Manager at [email protected].

If your horse meets a current need in our program, we’ll contact you to arrange a riding evaluation. For the safety of our team, the owner must provide a riding demo of the horse’s skills before NAC staff ride. Should your horse seem suitable, we’ll ask to take them on trial at our facility to further evaluate their appropriateness for our program.

Thank you for considering placing your horse at the National Ability Center!