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Former School Horses

1989 - 2011

January 2011:  On Tuesday, January 18th we made the difficult decision to euthanize our dear friend Snowcap. After the many years he shared with us, carrying both our youngest and oldest riders with a deep understanding of the responsibility of his role at Three Gaits, we knew we needed to do what was right for him. He was truly one of those "perfect" program horses - a horse that every program that provides equine assisted activities and therapy searches desperately to find - and he often displayed a great sense of humor.

Image by ShortHorse Studios

From Program Director Dena Duncan:  

Often when I write something regarding Three Gaits, the message is positive, uplifting and filled with thanks for the generosity that surrounds Three Gaits. And so, even though I write with deep sadness, I'm going to try to focus on the positive, and share my thanks - rather than to focus on the deep loss that we all share with not having Snowcap here with us any longer. I decided the best way to do this was to share a few of my favorite Snowcap stories…and to share the lessons I learned from this special horse.

"It's ok to be different…"

Snowcap, in addition to being a pinto with beautiful brown and white markings, had the rare honor in the equine world of being born with one blue and one brown eye. It made it so easy for riders and volunteers to tell him apart from the other horses - no one ever had trouble recalling his name!

"Don't sweat the small stuff…"

The first summer Snowcap lived at Three Gaits, we had scheduled a tour for two longtime donors to Three Gaits to come out and see a hippotherapy session. It was a lovely summer day, perfect weather, the session was going well when suddenly we heard a horrible noise from the road. (Remember Three Gaits indoor arena runs parallel to Hwy 138.) It began with a crash, followed by a grating noise that sounded like something was dragging along the highway, ending with a thud and another crash. Apparently a trailer loaded with furniture had come loose from the car that was pulling it, finally landing in the grass about 10 feet from the corner of Three Gaits indoor arena.

Snowcap munching on hay
“There’s always time for a snack"
Photo taken January 2011

While Stephanie, Angela, Snowcap's rider and I jumped from the noises we heard coming from the highway, Snowcap didn't miss a beat. He just kept walking, unconcerned about the ruckus coming from the road. In this moment, he was our anchor. A few days later we had the vet out to check his hearing as we thought he might have a hearing loss! His hearing was fine. We knew at that point Snowcap was here to stay!

"Friends are there for you when you really need them…" (and, even the best horses require some additional training…")

My second story of Snowcap's time at Three Gaits shares a different side of our laid back gentleman. We learned, several years after Snowcap arrived, that he was frightened by mules and donkeys.

A group of mule and donkey owners approached Three Gaits to ask if they could use the indoor arena to prepare for the Midwest Horse Fair. We agreed and the group came in, used the indoor arena. They left in the afternoon, just a bit before we were going to be in the indoor that evening with lessons.

Volunteers arrived to groom and tack the horses - including Snowcap - for lessons. Our quiet, always placid, Snowcap was led from the barn to the arena, and upon walking into the indoor arena became a horse we had never seen before. He became a bundle of nerves, his tail and little brown ears twitching rapidly back and forth, and nostrils flared. He whinnied (in human terms I would even say "bellowed") for his friends and couldn't settle down. We all stared at him in amazement - this was a side of Snowcap we had never seen before - and needless to say he had a night off from lessons. After that we took lots of opportunities to introduce Snowcap to mules and donkeys - it took him a long time to figure those creatures out! He was such a trusting horse though - he was willing to listen to his human friends and eventually realized that donkeys and mules were nothing to fear.

"Be thankful…"

So, in the spirit of Three Gaits I'm going to end with my thanks. Special thanks to the Levin family from Deerfield, Illinois who donated Snowcap to Three Gaits in March of 2004. Little did they know the thousands of gifts they shared with the many people who worked with Snowcap during the past 7 years. Thanks to Martin Roche, Three Gaits farrier, for all of his efforts (and hard work) in keeping Snowcap's feet balanced and correctly trimmed/shod so that Snowcap could participate in lessons at Three Gaits. To Snowcap's team of veterinarians - Dr Judy Batker, Dr Stephanie Hirsbrunner and Dr Larry Mahr from Country View Veterinary Service, and to Dr Doug Langer at Wisconsin Equine Clinic - each of you helped to allow him to help so many more people.

And to Snowcap - a special thanks - you made so many of us smile for the past seven years. Each day you shared with us was a gift that we'll always treasure.

We would love to share your special memories of (or from) Snowcap. If you have something you would like to share, please send it to me at dena@3gaits.org


  • Date of Birth: 1989
  • Breed: Paint/Draft Cross
  • Height: 16.1 Hands High
  • Color: Tobiano 
  • Markings: Chestnut and White, One Blue Eye 
  • Former Owner: Susan Levin (Donation)
  • Arrived at Three Gaits: February 2004
  • School Horse Specialty: Snowcap is very patient and helps Three Gaits a lot by being able to carry adult riders.
  • Previous Life: Snowcap was used for English riding and jumping with his owner in Illinois. He even did some field/fox hunting.
  • Did you know?: Snowcap has one blue and one brown eye!

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Three Gaits, Inc.     Therapeutic Horsemanship Center
(608) 877-9086     3gaits@3gaits.org
Stable Address:  3741 Hwy 138 W     Stoughton, WI  53589
Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 153     Oregon, WI  53575

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