Tag Archives: horses

Top 5 Therapy Animals

Animals have a lot of uses in the daily lives of many people around the world, from nutrition to domesticated pets, in addition to their own roles in their respective ecosystems. More recently, some animals have been utilized and recognized for the positive therapeutic impact they have on different demographics, including young patients with autism, cerebral palsy, severe physical disabilities, and elderly patients suffering from physical ailments plus depression and loneliness. Here are the top 5 therapy animals:

1. Horses

Przewalski horse at The Wilds in Ohio.

[Image: www.wikipedia.com]

Horses are especially recommended by therapists for people with disabilities because of the wide range of positive benefits from horseback riding. For instance, depending on the disability and personality of the patient, horseback riding may benefit the patient socially, or build core strength and  muscle memory. Therapists have noted the psychotherapeutic benefits of horseback riding among at-risk youth and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, making both groups of patients less aggressive and prone to suicidal thoughts.

2. Alpacas

English: Two young male Suri alpacas

[Image: www.wikipedia.com]

Alpacas are popular for their cute appearance, gentle, and sociable personalities. Those same qualities make them an asset in hospitals. In one Oregon children’s hospital, for instance, an alpaca (as well as the closely-related llama) have been effective in improving patients’ moods and health. However, the benefits of interacting with alpacas is not limited to children, but also includes patients in long-term and assisted-living communities, and physical rehabilitation centers.

3. Dogs

English: Golden Retriever dog (canis lupus fam...

[Image: www.wikipedia.com]

Dogs have long been used for medical purposes and in actual medical facilities. In some cases, retired guide dogs have stayed in the same facilities as child patients undergoing experimental therapies. Interacting with the therapy dogs, such as petting, walking, feeding, and grooming them, has been ineffective in lifting the spirits and speeding the recovery processes and motivations of patients.

4. Elephants

Elephant from Kruger Park, South Africa. Deuts...

[Image: www.wikipedia.com]

Though not used as commonly as dogs and horses in the United States for animal assisted therapy, elephants are nonetheless a popular choice in places such as Thailand, South Africa, and Jerusalem. Elephants have been used for young patients with cerebral palsy, people with autism, and more recently, as one aspect of drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Thailand. The fundamentally non-aggressive personalities and sheer exoticism of elephants tend to fascinate and motivate patients.

5. Rabbits

Rabbits DSC00372

[Image: www.wikipedia.com]

Rabbits are sometimes a realistic alternative to therapy dogs or cats simply because of their comparatively smaller size and fewer requisite responsibilities. Patients who have interacted with therapy rabbits have reportedly become more adept at building relationships and cooperating with others, and autistic child patients have improved their ability to understand physical limitations and interpret social cues.

Interested in having your own unique experience with wildlife in the great outdoors? Download our Pocket Ranger® apps to find the best places to experience nature.

4 Poems for Spring

Books stacked in grass [Image: www.topit.me/item/164713]

Image: www.topit.me/item/164713

April is National Poetry Month! This month, get out in the parks and write about the natural world coming into bloom all around you. For inspiration, here are four of our favorite springtime poems.


Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Green forest foliage [Image: pineandantler.tumblr.com/post/115056279509/blueberries-lena-swon]

Image: pineandantler.tumblr.com/post/115056279509/blueberries-lena-swon

The Springtime

Denise Levertov

The red eyes of rabbits
aren’t sad. No one passes
the sad golden village in a barge
any more. The sunset
will leave it alone. If the
curtains hang askew
it is no one’s fault.
Around and around and around
everywhere the same sound
of wheels going, and things
growing older, growing
silent. If the dogs
bark to each other
all night, and their eyes
flash red, that’s
nobody’s business. They have
a great space of dark to
bark across. The rabbits
will bare their teeth at
the spring moon.

Two girls in flowery meadow [Image: pratyahara-is-happiness.tumblr.com]

Image: pratyahara-is-happiness.tumblr.com

Last Spring

Gottfried Benn
Translated by Michael Hofmann

Fill yourself up with the forsythias
and when the lilacs flower, stir them in too
with your blood and happiness and wretchedness,
the dark ground that seems to come with you.

Sluggish days. All obstacles overcome.
And if you say: ending or beginning, who knows,
then maybe—just maybe—the hours will carry you
into June, when the roses blow.

Horses grazing in a field [Image Credit: Jess Feldman]

Image Credit: Jess Feldman

Horses at Midnight Without a Moon

Jack Gilbert

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround you.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

Looking for inspiration? Use your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to discover thought-provoking places nearest you!

First Day Hikes

There’s no better way to start 2015 than out on the trail. Originating in Massachusetts twenty years ago, First Day Hikes are now happening at state parks countrywide. At this past year’s First Day Hikes, 28,000 people hiked 66,811 miles in the state parks! Here are a few hikes that we’re making our New Year’s resolutions. We hope to see you trailside!

New Hampshire

This summer, we blogged about how much we love Monadnock State Park. Whether it’s your first time or fiftieth time to the park, we definitely recommend joining them for their First Day Hike up the Parker Trail. It’s a moderate hike, just under 3 miles in length. The trail skirts Poole Reservoir, and then follows an old stone wall through the woods. Depending on weather and participant enthusiasm, this hike may continue on to the “Little Mountain” scenic vista for views at the summit.

State park visitors hike along in the snow by a yellow mansion and a cove

First Day Hike at Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion State Historic Site [Image: www.nhstateparks.org]

If you’d rather stroll along a harbor, head to Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion State Historic Site. They will be taking guests along the Little Harbor Loop Trail, an easy hike that’s just 1.5 miles in length. The trail travels through beautiful mixed-growth woods, and there are numerous scenic overlooks of the harbor and the mansion.

South Dakota

Why hike when you can snowshoe? At Lake Herman State Park, the First Day Snowshoe Hike will include two intro snowshoe sessions. Open to all skill and age levels, there are snowshoes available to borrow for free for those who don’t already own a pair. There will also be a snowshoe stomp at Fort Sisseton Historic State Park.

Woman snowshoes on a very snowy trail in the mountains

Hit the trails this New Year’s Day! [Image: Thomas DeSisto]

The Creekside Stroll First Day Hike at Custer State Park is perfect for anyone looking to spot wildlife on New Year’s Day. On this two-mile jaunt that follows the Grace Coolidge Creek, learn about the area’s flora and fauna. Keep your eyes peeled for the wild buffalo herd that roams the park! If your heart is set on a larger hike, head to Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, Oakwood Lakes State Park, or Pease Creek Recreation Area. Looking to test your navigation skills? Grab your boots, skis, or snowshoes and meet at Newton Hills State Park for a First Day Geocaching Hiking.


We are thrilled about all of the First Day Hikes happening across Virginia! At each park, the first 100 attendees will receive a special First Day Hike bumper sticker. Some of our favorites include the hike at Occoneechee State Park, which will follow the Old Plantation Trail. While on the trail, hikers can learn about the Occoneechee Plantation and view the terrace gardens. The First Day GPS Poker Hike happening at Twin Lake State Parks is perfect for those looking for a new kind of challenge. Check-in at the main office and receive a GPS coordinate and playing card. At each location throughout the park, players will receive another card. Once finished, head back to the office and log your poker hand. A prize will be rewarded to the hiker with the best poker hand! We’re also excited about the Invisible Animals edition of a First Day Hike happening at Holliday Lake State Park. While the park appears empty in wintertime, on this guided hike discover wildlife clues, such as bear tracks, turkey scrapes, squirrel nests, and more.


A girl takes photos of wild horses in a grassy field on an overcast day

Begin 2015 with a wild horse sighting at Paynes Prairie State Park. [Image: www.floridarambler.com]

Florida State Parks have lined up plenty of ways to hit the trail on January 1st. With opportunities to see resident wildlife, like sandhill cranes, alligators, bison, and wild horses, you won’t want to miss the one-mile First Day Hike through Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. This hike is suitable for all ability levels, just remember to bring your binoculars! If you’d like your dog to tag along, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is hosting a pet-friendly First Day Hike along the Trestle Point and Pine Ridge Trails. This hike will travel through a shaded hammock by the river, and then traverse the park’s fabulous sandhills and pinewoods. Use your Pocket Ranger® app to snap photos, mark waypoints, and share with other First Day hikers via email, Facebook, or Twitter!


For beautiful backcountry hiking in Georgia, Don Carter State Park will be taking First Day hikers on a two-mile cross-country adventure, following old road beds, ridges, hills and valleys. At Panola Mountain State Park, commence your journey by writing and then burning last year’s burdens. After a brisk hike to the Panola Mountain summit, there will be a celebratory campfire, s’mores and hot chocolate. As the sun sets, join historic figures on a twilight First Day Hike at Fort King George Historic Site. Historical re-enactors will share stories, tidbits, and their own take on New Year’s resolutions on this half-mile guided nature hike.


A group of snowshoers in the snowy woods

Image: www.outdoors.org

Bid 2014 adieu on a Last Night Hike at Ohiopyle State Park. Hikers will meet at the Sugarloaf warming hut and hike (or snowshoe) their way into the New Year. If you’re looking to do some birdwatching on New Year’s Day, sign up for the hike at Pymatuning State Park. A park guide will be on hand to help hikers identify plants and birds. The First Day Hike at Nescopeck State Park will be guided by a conservation volunteer, and will follow the beautiful Creekside and Woodland Way Trails for 4.5 miles. This hike is perfect for anyone looking to spend some extended time in the woods on New Year’s Day.

These are just a few of the many First Day Hikes happening countrywide on January 1, 2015. Use the Events Calendar feature on any of our Pocket Ranger® apps to find a hike near you.

Happy New Year!

Horseback Riding in State Parks

While riding around an arena is a necessary step for any beginner learning the basics, riding alongside the unpredictability of nature is something you can’t experience while in an enclosed space. It’s time to venture out. After all, horses are meant to run in open spaces as are humans.

Girl and horse resting while on the trail.

Resting while on the climb up to the Pastoruri Glacier in Huaraz, Peru [Image: Cynthia Via]

If you’re done practicing riding techniques and have confidence behind the reins, then horseback riding in state parks is the ideal next step. While on trails one can witness the varied wildlife and landscape. Imagine riding through the woods, maybe near a beach or by a waterfall. The opportunities are endless! But first make sure to get properly acclimated to your horse. Most state parks don’t offer guided trail rides, so plan out your exercusions. Do check for parks offering horse rentals, stables, parking for trailers, and equestrian camping. We’ve compiled a list of northeastern state parks offering some of these amenities. Which state park will you visit?

New York

A guy and a lady riding alongside in Allegany State Park.

Operators of a group camp for girls. [Image: Allegany State Park Historical Society]

Allegany State Park has 55 miles of trails, mostly for summertime equestrian use. The horse trails are interconnecting loop trails going through gravel park roads, abandoned town roads and railroads. Riders will get a chance to venture along hillsides, rolling and level trails plus woodland views. There’s also a primitive horse camping in the Red House area with self-contained trailers and 3 sets of 4 horse stalls with water available. Though they don’t have rentals, the Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County offers riding clubs and equestrian events. 

Image: https://www.flickr.com  by Kathy Hinkaty

Among the leaves in Caumsette State Historic Park [Image: www.flickr.com by Kathy Hinkaty]

Caumsett State Historic Park, surrounded by the Long Island Sound, is a scenic little peninsula, divinely made for horseback riding. Its bridle paths go through woodlands, meadows, rock shoreline and salt marsh.  Within the park, a polo pony barn offers lessons and boarding as part of the Lloyd Harbor Equestrian Center. Here you can practice classical horse training (dressage), cross-country, hunt courses and jumping rings. They also offer educational clinics, rides through miles of trails, horse shows, and leasing. Other activities within the park include fishing, hiking, bird watching, nature photography, and nature study. You might just hear a couple of birds while trail-riding.  

Highland Forest in Onondaga County has horseback riding trails, which are open between May 1 to October 31. It’s one of the oldest country parks and contains more than six square miles of rugged forest terrain. The forest has trails especially singled out for horseback riding. They also have a Skyline Lodge lot where you can park. Riders must register inside the lodge. If you don’t have your own horse, you can visit Highland Outfitters where they have rentals for $30 per person per hour, available for ages five and up, by appointment only. 


Marsh Creek State Park, located in north central Chester country, has fishing, sailing, horseback riding, and is a rest stop for waterfowl. The bridle trails are on the western side of the park and have loops of various distances. There are also hunting areas in use during some seasons, so be aware. If you’re not bringing you’re own ride, luckily Hope Springs Farm, located within the state park, offers boarding, training, lessons and trail rides through the meadows and woods.

Elk County [Image: http://www.pinterest.com/thepawilds/]

Elk County [Image: www.pinterest.com/thepawilds/]

Elk State Forest in Cameron and Elk County has unlimited opportunities for horseback riding just about 30 miles on a little trail called, Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail. Most of the trails encircle Dark Hollow and Gas Well Equestrian Camping Areas in two separate loops. The remaining trail mileage expands from these two loops. The park name is not a trick; there really are elk! The elk scenic drive starts in Benezette, a small township in Elk county. As of now, the herd number is 600 in that area. We hear its quite the 127-mile route with much potential for wildlife viewing. When mating season comes around, make sure to catch bull elk males battling each other over the ultimate prize at the forests’ edge.


Horse riders mounted off and walking through high bridge.

Riders must mount off to cross the bridge. [Image: blogs.progress-index.com]

High Bridge Trail State Park is a multi-use, 31-miles long trail for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. There are five trails to look for when you’re out there. Now for the history nerds. High Bridge Trail State Park is named so for its majestic High Bridge, which is more than 2,400 feet long and 160 feet above the Appomattox River. The bridge was built in 1853. Where the bridge stands now looked much different in April of 1865 when Union soldiers and Confederates fought at the Battle of High Bridge before it ended at Appomattox. After the Civil War, attempts were made to fix the damaged bridge, but it took many years before the High Bridge was restored. It is now fully open to the public. 

Rhode Island

horseback riding at state parks at Goddard Memorial State Park

Riding by the beach in Goddard Memorial State Park [Image: www.myparkphotos.com]

The state of Rhode Island conjures up beautiful images lighthouses, calm beaches and pastel-colored homes. Goddard Memorial State Park joins the breezy scenery with its expansive fields and forested areas including 18 miles of bridle trails.  Goddard is nestle in between Greenwich Cove and Greenwich Bay, and lined by deciduous and evergreen species. The park also has a golf course, picnic tables, games fields, and equestrian shows. If you’re not bringing your own horse, C and L stable provides trail rides overlooking East Greenwich Bay and beach bayside.

Suggested Gear:

  • Mindbender Trail Run Shoe
  • Marmot Minimalist Jacket
  • Lucy Lotus Pant

Check out our Pocket Ranger® gear store for these items and much more!

Your State’s Mammal

There is nothing more earthly than the site of wildlife in a state park. If you love seeing wildlife, then you’ll be interested to know which animal belongs to your state. While exploring the parks with your state’s Pocket Ranger® app in hand, keep your eyes peeled for some of these state mammals!


Black bear near trees

Image: www.newsrender.com

This state’s mammal is the black bear. They are intelligent, shy and very secretive. Black bears aren’t always just black in color; their colors can range from cinnamon, white beige and grey. Adult black bears weigh 130-150 pounds and they are omnivorous.


Beige panther sitting on tree branch

Image: www.evergladesassociation.org

This carnivorous mammal of Florida is the panther. Adult female panthers weigh 64-100 pounds, while the males weigh 100-159 pounds. The panther’s underbelly is creamy white and the tip of the tails and ears is black. Panthers are usually black, white or beige. Currently, the Florida Panther is listed on the endangered species list.


Brown moose by water

Image: traveltips.usatoday.com

Maine’s state mammal is the moose. They have long legs, a heavy body, small tail and a drooping nose. Their color ranges from golden brown to black. Moose are herbivores and consume plants or fruits. The males weigh about 840-1,540 pounds, while the female weighs 440-790 pounds.


White tailed deer with baby white tailed deer

Image: animals.nationalgeographic.com

The while-tailed deer is Mississippi’s state mammal. They are reddish brown in the spring and summer and they turn grey-brown throughout fall and winter. When they feel alarmed, they raise their tail to warn other deer. The males weigh 130-290 pounds and the females weigh 88-198 pounds. Whitetail deer eat legumes, leaves, grasses, fruits, acorns and corn.

New Jersey

Horseback riding, mountains in the background

Image: mtnvacations.net

Horses are New Jersey‘s state mammal. The size of horses varies by breed and by their nutrition. Light riding horses weigh 840-1,210 pounds and larger horses weigh 1,100-1,300 pounds. A horses diet consists of hay, grains, corn and fruits. Horses come in all kinds of colors, such as black, chestnut and gray.

New York

Brown beaver in sand

Image: www.gambassa.com

Who knew that a beaver was New York’s state animal? These mammals can weigh over 40 pounds and mate for life during their third year. Beavers have webbed feet and a scaly tail. They have poor eyesight but have a great sense of smell, touch and hearing. Their diet consists of plant tubers, roots, shoots and herbaceous plants. Beavers build dams to flood areas for protection from predators and to provide underwater entrances for their den.

South Dakota

Beige coyote walking in dirt

Image: a-z-animals.com

The coyote is South Dakota‘s mammal. They are smart and have a great sense of smell. Coyotes can attain a speed of 64 miles per hour! Their color varies from grayish brown to yellowish gray, and they weigh 16-46 pounds. Coyotes will change their diet and breeding habits to accommodate their changing environment.


Brown Olympic Marmot sitting in grass

Image: gerritvyn.photoshelter.com

The Olympic Marmot is Washington‘s state mammal. They are rodents in the squirrel family. Their head is wide with small eyes and ears and the tail is bushy. They weigh 7-30 pounds. Olympic Marmot’s are leaf-eating animals, occasionally eating fruits and insects.

People hiking up trail in state park

Image: www.lagrangemoms.com

Wondering where you can find wildlife? After downloading your state’s Pocket Ranger® app, you can easily find which state park nearest you has wildlife viewing as well as other activities. Have you been taking lots of great pics of wildlife while exploring the wilderness? Use the Trophy Case® app to share your photos with a community of fellow fish and wildlife lovers!

Suggested Gear List:

  • Binoculars
  • Shades
  • Hydration Waist Pack

Check out these supplies at our Gear Store to make your wildlife viewing experience exceptional!

Related articles

5 Greatest Animal Companions

Animal companions and parks go hand-in-hand. If you’ve ever taken your pet to a state park, you know how much our four-legged friends absolutely love the outdoors. The moment you release them from the car and they smell the pine trees or hear the rush of the river, their tails start to wag like crazy and they tug on your leash, as if to say, “Come on, come on, let’s go already!”

Well, today, we’re counting down the five greatest animal companions of all time in honor of the connection our animal friends have with us and with nature. Perhaps you’ll see a bit of your own animal friend in one of these loyal companions. Or if you don’t already have a pet, perhaps you’ll be inspired to finally get that friendly beast you always wanted!

5. Joey from War Horse

Joey is the horse at the center of “War Horse,” which began as a children’s novel before being adapted into an award-winning play and subsequently a blockbuster movie directed by Steven Spielberg. The book, play, and movie all tell the story of a colt from the countryside of Devon, England, who gets sent off to the First World War. He first belongs to Albert Narracott, a young boy whose alcoholic father gives him Joey as a present only to one day sell the horse to pay off debts. A young cavalry officer named Captain James Nicholls purchases Joey at an auction, trains him, and takes him into battle. After Nicholls is killed, Joey ends up in the care of two young German brothers, then a sick, orphaned French girl, and finally back with Albert, who by this time has enlisted in the army and finds a battered Joey in the fields of combat. Though War Horse is a sweeping story of war, at its heart it tells the story of an innocent creature’s will to survive and return home, and the loyal human friend who never loses hope of finding him again.

Joey from War Horse

Image: www.reeltimes.blogspot.com

4. Hedwig

With all the magical creatures and colorful characters in J.K. Rowling’s massively popular Harry Potter series, it’s easy to overlook Harry’s faithful and unassuming white snow owl, Hedwig, but for those who take a moment to reflect on her relationship with Harry and her function in the novels, Hedwig stands out at as a stark and striking embodiment of purity, grace, and innocence. Readers will be quick to recall how Hedwig delivered messages for Harry throughout the series, but most probably forget how she also served as his companion during the summers when he was away from Hogwarts and became his sole link to the wizarding world.

J.K. Rowling herself has said that Hedwig’s life represents Harry’s innocence, which (spoiler alert!) makes her death in the seventh and final book even more heartbreaking.


Image: www.harrypotter.wikia.com

3. Falkor

The only purely fantastical creature on the list, Falkor is the luckdragon from the enduring 80s classic “The NeverEnding Story.” Though he is a “dragon,” Fallkor looks more like an oversized dog. But unlike your run of the mill giant dog, Falkor can fly and is incredibly lucky in everything he does (hence the name luckdragon). Five other luckdragons are mentioned in passing throughout the series, but Falkor is the only one to actually appear. In the books and movie, we see him helping the young warrior Atreyu on his quest to find a cure for the Empress. And in just the movie, Falkor helps Bastian take revenge against the bullies who chase him into the bookstore. Given his inherently lovable appearance and amazing luck, who wouldn’t want to have Falkor as an animal companion?


Image: www.thatfilmguy.net

2. White Fang

Even domesticated pets like dogs were once wild animals. Every now and then when our pets lash out or refuse to cooperate, we’re reminded that dogs didn’t always live inside houses and exist solely at the whims of their owners. First a novel by Jack London and then an adapted motion picture starring Ethan Hawke, “White Fang” is the story of a wolf-dog hybrid raised in harsh conditions and trained to be a fighting dog, who eventually gets adopted by a young, kind gold-miner who tames and befriends the once hostile and unloved creature. Cynics will be quick to question the literary merits of the novel and will accuse the movie of being sentimental melodrama, but anyone who’s ever known the undying loyalty of a dog will see in “White Fang” a moving tribute to the awe-inspiring bond that can form between man and animal.

White Fang

Image: www.carolslifejourney.blogspot.com

1. Hachiko

Unlike the other four animals on our list, Hachiko actually existed. He has become something of a legend, though, inspiring books and movies, all of which serve as a testament to the enduring power of this true story. Born on a farm near Odate, Akita Prefecture, Hachiko was an Akita dog known for his remarkable loyalty. In 1924, a Tokyo university professor named Hidesaburo Ueno took in Hachiko as a pet, and the pair subsequently developed a routine in which Professor Ueno left for work in the mornings, and in the afternoons Hachiko went to the train station to greet his owner upon his return. This routine continued until May 1925 when Professor Ueno suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died, never returning to the train station where Hachiko obediently waited for him. Amazingly, each day for the next nine years Hachiko continued to appear at the train station precisely when his dead owner’s train was due to arrive. After one of Professor Ueno’s graduate students noticed Hachiko waiting at the station, word of the dog’s loyalty spread throughout Japan and became legendary. In 1934, admirers erected a bronze statue of Hachiko’s likeness at Shibuya Station.

Image: www.fanpop.com

Image: www.fanpop.com