Mo-Neigh – The Artwork of Therapy Horses

Bachelor painting

There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. Winston Churchill

If you are a regular reader of my blog you have heard my praises for the North Carolina Therapeutic Riding Center (NCTRC). Our family knows firsthand the amazing people who are the lifeblood of NCTRC, many of which are volunteers. I find myself at NCTRC nearly every week watching my daughter in her riding session. She rides Joker most weeks this year and I watch as he transforms her into a relaxed, sometimes  more confident version of herself. Big smile on her face, she is willing to work harder at tasks when she is on his back. She is not always as commanding and communicative as she needs to be, but being in control of a horse requires taking initiative, making, communicating, and executing decisions, all important skills when riding a horse, skills she’s working on, and skills that will translate into being more independent and confident in other aspects of her life, it takes time and a lot of work to build up that confidence and independence – practicing on the back of a horse makes that work enjoyable. I think, after many riding sessions, Joker knows Lina; she rode him last year as well and in fact has competed at Special Olympics with Joker as her partner. I think he feels her love for him every time she climbs on, and appreciates her gentle seat in the saddle and how careful she is to not cause him the least discomfort. Its no surprise that NCTRC is my favorite nonprofit, and also the group that I am always happy to contribute to in any way I can. Recently I got the opportunity to interact a bit with the horses myself, I wasn’t riding, but still the magic of the horse spirit was there.

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire. Sharon Ralls Lemon

BachelorLast year one of the executive directors, Lara Katz and I came up with the idea of letting the horses create paintings to be sold at NCTRC’s annual fundraiser held each September, its called The Mane Affair. Some other therapeutic riding centers across the nation do something similar, I have heard them call these paintings MoNeighs, which I think is the perfect name for the art of horses! Since we didn’t get organized early enough for last year, we decided to start out this spring to have paintings ready for sale at the fundraiser this year. So, here comes my part, I had the pleasure of facilitating the horses in creating their beautiful paintings! Making color choices and choreographing while Lara and Kristen maneuvered the horses, how great is that?! Just call me ‘canvas holder’! The day we were painting was also Spring Vet day. So the veterinarian was their checking each horse and taking care of their immunizations and other needs, once their vet check was over the horses got to come paint with us!


Give your hands to serve and your hearts to love. Mother Teresa

Lara and JokerI never thought facilitating a herd of horses painting on canvases would be so much fun! These horses are very patient and tolerant, as their daily job of equine therapy requires, but we were asking them to hold a paintbrush! I think they may have enjoyed painting, but of course like any animal it may have been the extra attention they were receiving, while not working – but I’m sticking with the idea that they had fun painting! It was a really great time for the humans and the paintings turned out colorful and lively. It takes many hands for a project like this; my daughter Lina came with me to assist along with horse experts Kristin (volunteer Coordinator and Teacher), Lara (Executive Director) and Jackie (Executive Director) whose help was invaluable. I noticed the vet and some of the people assisting her popped their heads in every now and again, as this just seemed too awesome not to witness, there was definitely an atmosphere of joy. Along with the original artwork we plan to have calendars for sale featuring the 12 paintings created. There were 10 horses that participated; each had varying abilities when it came to chomping on a paintbrush and gliding it around a canvas. Dooley, a longtime farm favorite, created 3 paintings himself. Each horse ‘signed’ his or her masterpiece with a hoof print. Their tails were  dipped in paint and allowed to swish over the canvas producing some beautiful textural marks. No horse was put in danger in any way and there were no injuries to any horses in the making of this art!

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world! Anne FrankJoker

This summer the horses will become canvases themselves as NCTRC holds several weeks of All Abilities Summer Camp during which the campers, along with learning about horses, and riding horses also get the opportunity to paint on the horses bodies – it seems only fair the horses had a chance on the other end of the brush! If you know a student who may be interested, check the link for information.

Thank you to Dooley, Daisy, Gracie, Frazier, Joker, Genie, Bachelor, Sammy, Cody, and Emmi! What a great group of horses – and artists!


If you would like to give to this great nonprofit organization and don’t want to wait until September for the Mane Affair, there is currently a Fill the Barn event happening. Check it out. You won’t find a finer nonprofit to support! 

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Light, Love, and Laughter,



Shannon and Lara with Joker

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