Lifting Spirits Miniature Therapy Horses
In October 2017, a non-profit was founded to help serve a need in New England. Lifting Spirits Miniature Therapy Horses has visited over 35 facilities, ranging from nursing homes, brain injury rehabs, schools specializing in autism, pediatric hospitals, schools, libraries, churches and Veterans Affairs homes. Their mission is to provide mobile equine assisted activity services to children and adults in need.
Meet the Founder
Toni Hadad has had a love for horses ever since she could remember, around age five. She grew up working in barns, caring for horses, along with riding and showing until she went to college. Many years later, after kids and work slowing down, she had the opportunity to rescue her first horse, Gunner, a 15-year-old quarter horse in February 2017.
Her parents both worked in the medical field and her father, a veteran, always encouraged her to give back and help others. He would take Toni and siblings to the nursing homes he worked at to visit with the patients. They would make holiday baskets to take to the nursing homes as well. The joy and appreciation shown by the patients, especially ones who didn’t get visitors, has been engrained in her memory. Toni saw similar organizations started in California and Ohio, joining therapy and miniature horses and she was inspired to take a new direction in her life and career.
Meet the Miniature Horses
Tonka is a 22-year-old chestnut gelding, who stands at 36” tall. He is the oldest mini at Lifting Spirits Miniature Therapy Horses. He loves apples and treats, and loves being taken for walks!
Banshee is a 12-year-old pinto mare, who stands at 30” tall. They call her the “flying potato” because even though she is stout and round, she LOVES to run and is lightning fast!
Charlie is a 12-year-old paint gelding who stands at 32” tall. After being neglected and alone for 2 years, Charlie has found his true calling as a therapy horse.
Peaches is a 2-year-old pinto palomino dwarf mare who stands at 26” tall. She is able to only do short visits due to arthritis in her legs but loves spending time with children and people of all ages.
Mr. Buttons is a 1-year old chocolate dwarf gelding who stands at 26” tall. Like Peaches, he has inherited the dwarfism gene, but that doesn’t stop him from loving attention and being very friendly!
Dwarfism is a genetic recessive disorder that is caused when a stallion and mare that both carry the gene are bred. This can result in a shortened life span and a plethora of health issues for the horse. Breeding is discouraged as owning a dwarf miniature horse is not for the faint of heart and takes a dedicated individual to make such a financial and time-consuming commitment. In addition to offering life changing therapy to people through miniature horses, Toni rescues dwarf miniature horses. What a beautiful cycle, to rescue miniature dwarf horses who in turn rescue people!
Toni works with the Peeps Foundation and other rescues with the same goal to educate and rescue miniature horses.
How This Program is Changing Lives
"Our students and teachers at Altavesta School thoroughly enjoyed our visit from Lifting Spirits Miniature Therapy Horses. Toni, the owner, brought a wealth of information about her adorable miniature horses and the benefits of therapy horses. Students loved listening to the interesting facts and, of course, having the opportunity to pet the horses. Peaches and Mr. Buttons truly accomplished their goal - bringing pure joy to our school community!"
– Carin M., Alavesta Elementary School
"I cannot say enough about Toni and “Peaches”. Toni is very knowledgeable and pleasant. Peaches was a big hit with Residents and Staff. I feel very fortunate to have booked Toni to visit us on a monthly basis!"
– Kim B., Bayberry at Emerald Court
"I have worked with Toni and the horses for over a year now in our Special Education Day school and Pediatric nursing home. Toni is wonderful with us. The children and staff enjoy every session with the horses. The children’s faces light up with enjoyment and they truly make connections with all our students and residents. Working with Lifting Spirits miniature horses is an amazing gift to our facility and I highly recommend anyone to check it out for their therapy needs. We can’t wait to see Tonka, Peaches and Mr. Buttons soon... 😊"
– Amy G., New England Pediatric Center
Learn more about this organization at https://www.minitherapyhorses.net/ and follow along with them on their journey at https://www.facebook.com/liftingspiritsminitherapyhorses/.