Pharoah's Fire

Photo courtesy of Anne Carlsen Center for Children
(1961 – 2002)
Owned by Anne Carlsen Center for Children
Inducted: 2013


Given "Fire's" fiery disposition as a stallion, no one would ever have guessed that as a gelding, he would become an extremely valuable resource to children with autism.

With a championship pedigree, dark bay coloring and the striking physical characteristics desirable of the Arabian breed, Pharoah’s Fire was originally purchased to be a top of the line breeding stallion. His owners, David and Sharon Kalstrom of Hidden Valley Arabians, had tragically lost everything in a barn fire, and the fittingly named Fire was to be one of the stallions that would help them recover and build their new herd.

Fire, however, had a disposition that lived up to his name. He was extremely difficult to handle, and after a few years, the decision was made to geld Fire in hopes that he would be easier to work with. Fire was a dynamic mover, so the hope was that perhaps he could be trained as English show horse.

After years of having never been ridden, Fire wasn't cut out to be a champion in the show ring. Instead, he learned to love pasture life and became one of the herd.

Around the same time, the Kalstroms had learned about therapeutic riding while watching a TV program, and immediately became interested in getting involved. And they got involved in a big way. In addition to donating their facility and equipment, they offered several horses for use by the riders, including Fire who began to train as a Hippotherapy horse. In this new line of work, he quickly found his niche. Fire was no longer a horse to fear, but a horse that could be easily handled and could tolerate well the variety of riders that came his way.

At the Anne Carlsen Center for Children near Jamestown, North Dakota, Fire endured children screeching in his ears, youngsters jabbing fingers in his face and kids thumping on his ribs; yet somehow, this purebred Arabian didn’t let any of it phase him. It as though he knew the importance of the job that he’d been given. He learned to stand patiently while wheelchair riders mounted him. Sandwiched between a ramp with a platform and a mounting block, Fire would remain motionless while as many as four people helped a child out of a wheelchair and into a saddle. He was especially sensitive to riders with autism, accepting that their behaviors were not reflective of their personalities and feelings. He remained calm when they would yell out, clap their hands or bounce on his back.

In 1994, Fire’s work caught the recognition of Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, and he was duly honored as the 1994 PATH Equine of the Year. In 1995 he was featured in an article in Physical Therapy Today magazine, and in 1998 he was the focus of an article in International Arabian Horse magazine.

Fire’s owners always knew he was destined to become a champion, but they never imagined that it would be champion in the eyes of countless riders with special needs. Fire passed away in 2002, but lives on in the hearts of those he touched.