We wanted to tell you about a new pet that is making the rounds in the pet therapy world – miniature horses. We have 30 minis and have been working with them for 25 years. Miniature horses live about 25 years, but many of ours are into their 30’s.
We believe the minis are ideal as pet therapy animals for many reasons. They are quiet, intelligent, and well-behaved. They can go most anywhere, even in elevators, and have no hesitation in navigating the slippery floors of a long-term care facility. If they poop, it can be handled with a minimum effort. They are curious and want to greet each visitor. And they don’t need a large paddock.
Some people visit our herd at our farm where we cater to senior groups with varying needs and children with special needs. Many of the special needs children who visit seem calmed by the horses. We also take the horses to visit various senior facilities. The seniors always want to leave their rooms to touch and groom our horses. Even those who no longer communicate may smile or reach out to touch a horse.
In addition, we take our horses to some facilities for extended periods where they are looked after by the faculty staff and become part of their recreation programs. (Our programs are discussed in more detail in “The Big Book of Miniature Horses” by Kendra Gale). Our horses are treated kindly and the frequent handling has a payoff. They thrive on the added attention and come home from those facilities calm, relaxed, and well-groomed. These programs ensure regular working of the horses and ultimately better conditioning and performance.
We realize miniature horses are not for everyone, but we wanted to let you know that they do make wonderful therapy pets, driving horses, and equine friends.
– Pete and Terry, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Dear Pete and Terry,
Thanks for sharing your story – and another book recommendation for people shopping for their equine-loving friends for the holidays. Equine therapy has been around for many decades in outdoor settings, so I can see how miniature horses might benefit both adults and children in many positive ways. Study upon study confirms the benefits of animals in our lives, from lifting depression and calming anxiety to helping us live longer lives. It’s great that so many people are willing to share their dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and, in your case, miniature horses, in pet therapy settings for the health and well-being of others. Kudos to you for giving joy to so many people.
Just a quick note on giving pets as gifts. It’s fine if you’re a parent giving to a child, a spouse giving to a partner, or a child giving to a parent who says they want a pet. Otherwise, buy your friends and family a gift card for pet supplies or give them books on pet care instead.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal