Mighty Mini Horses
[July 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage] By Alice Billings.
SAY HELLO TO GLORY, GOLDIE, AND SWEET DREAMS – the mini horses of the Mighty Mini Horse Therapy Program (MMHTP). The magic happens when the elderly, the aged – the people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s meet them for the first time. Like at the Mesa Manor Center in Grand Junction, when Goldie and Glory walked in, Manette Steele (owner of the MMHTP) said “Aren’t they cute?” and an advanced Alzheimer’s patient responded by saying “Yes.” What makes this magical is that this woman, this patient had not spoken since she’d been living at the facility. The staff had never heard her voice. Magical? I think so. Personally, I have seen an elderly woman with dementia, holding a mini’s face in her hands, light up with an inner glow—much like a Rembrandt painting!
Horses are healers—of that there is no doubt. More and more people are using horses in therapy programs treating PTSD, trauma, and all kinds of emotional and physical issues. Horses are always in the moment —always present. They can heal, can make you smile, make you peaceful and calm—and for that moment put you in a state of pure bliss. They are sentient beings—meaning they have emotions and feelings.
Let me introduce Goldie (I’m A Little Gold Mine). He is 12 years old, a former show horse. Glory (Glorious Rapture) is three and she has been working in the program since the beginning. And Sweet Dreams, at four, is the newest member of the team. All of these minis come from Carol Lowery, Fallen Star Ranch, Eastman, Georgia. They specialize in very small minis (25-27 inches) and they train them for therapy work.
The first true Miniature Horses originated in Europe, actually in the United Kingdom. As early as the sixteen hundreds, these tiny equines were being bred as pets for the European nobility. Paintings and articles were featuring the Miniature Horse by 1765. Royalty enjoyed seeing these small horses roaming around their gardens. So the minis became very popular.
The Mighty Mini Horse Therapy Program is a non-profit started in July 2017. The little horses have visited 14 senior care homes, made 10 visits to the Grand Junction VA hospital, and will be making monthly visits to Montrose Memorial Hospital.
They are partnering with the Ouray Schools and the Voyager Program on an anti-bullying program called “Just Say Whoa to Bullying.” This program, once going full steam, will be going to schools up and down the western slope.
These minis travel two days a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, sometimes making three stops in one day. The rest of the week, they are horses just playing in the pasture.
And as you might suspect, volunteers are an important part of this program- essential part to be exact. They travel with the minis. Having horses myself, I’m thinking a horse trailer. Nope…they travel in a specially outfitted Ford Expedition SUV. Parking is easier.
Horses are healers—of that there is no doubt.
So what can “horse therapy” do for a human? Here’s just a short list.
• Lifts spirits and lessen depression and anxiety
• Lower feelings of isolation and alienation
• Encourage communication
• Provide comfort
• Lessen boredom and give people a reason to get out of bed
• Aid children in overcoming speech and emotional disorders
• Reduce loneliness
• And lastly . . .they just are so darn cute!
So why did Manette start this program? She found the corporate world was no longer was satisfying and wanted a change of lifestyle—but one that would be of service to others, something that would be more rewarding.
Having horses is not for the faint of heart. There’s lot of work that goes along with it. Feeding, bathing, grooming, shoveling poop, bedding stalls, and filling water troughs. And, of course vet, and farrier visits to keep the animals healthy. Then, there is scheduling, and asking for donations, and applying for grants to keep the program going.
Albert Einstein said: “Strive not to be a success but rather to be of value.” Looks like that is exactly what Manette Steele is doing.
When you can bring happiness to another and share in some of it yourself—To bask in the sunlight of Glory, Goldie and Sweet Dreams. Not much tops that.
Alice Billings is the owner of Thunder Heart Haven, a sanctuary for older horses. She offers comprehensive art and equine learning programs for adults and children.