Photograph by Ryan Kurtz
A horse is a horse, of course, of course. And Lisa Moad’s miniature therapy horses are no exception. Sure, they’re tiny: Measured ground-to-withers (that’s the shoulder area, in horse parlance), 9-year-old Buckeye is just under 27 inches tall. But the li’l guy is proportioned just like a sleek steed, and—as with a big horse—Mother Nature has endowed him with skittish tendencies.
So Moad’s barn at Seven Oaks Farm near Hamilton is where Buckeye and others learn to do what doesn’t come naturally: to climb stairs and cross slippery tile floors; to remain chill despite sirens, balloons, careening wheelchairs, and kids who don’t exactly respect their personal space. Basically, Moad says, “They’re trained not to be freaked out.” What kind of “therapy” do these diminutive dobbins offer? Moad’s miniatures have trotted alongside cops in the city and nuzzled nervous college freshmen at Miami U. In other settings, their presence helps to draw out children struggling to read and lifts the spirits of listless nursing home residents.
Wherever they’re on assignment, they wear pint-sized poop bags to collect their little road apples. Because, says Moad, “they’re scheduled, not potty-trained.”