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time. And children who are having a difficult life love their horse time even more. Betty Will of Northwind Farm in Hutto, TX, just north of Austin, spotted this need. She formed a small nonprofit outfit in 2007 that specializes in matching up tiny horses with their tiny charges. Children as young as four may visit her facility along with their counselors or parents and spend quality time with her 12 minis in a highly supervised setting.


from church group homes; fos- ter care; or are from the special education classes of a school district. Some of her “pupils” are children who are dealing with a huge loss in their lives such as the death of a parent. She has also hosted Girl Scout troups who worked on elements


pint sized horses - gallons of love We all love our horse


By Ingrid Edisen The children come


and even clean their feet. Then with the children leading their minis, the “class” is taken out- side single file and the children are encouraged to guide their equine counterparts through an obstacle course. The obstacle course includes a bridge, a line of cones that the children must navigate like a polebending course, a box into which halt is practiced and turning the animal around in, a maze, etc. At the very end, the entire class lines up abreast as if they were in a horse show and closing remarks are made then single file, they lead everybody back to the barn. Given that many of these children are dealing with extreme past traumas, the fresh air and exposure to horses--al- beit horses that measure as tall as an adult’s thigh--gives the children a chance to forget the bad things and focus on some-


neighbor of Betty’s: Jackie Dahl who operates Supreme Equine Design and sews much of the tack and blankets to fit such small animals. Betty is originally from Texas but spent a good deal of time in Maryland where she operated a boarding barn. She moved back here in 1984. She bred and showed minis and was ac- tive in the AMHR (Amercian Mini Horse Registry) realm which also includes Shetlands and allows for horses up to 38 inches in height. The other U.S. registry for minis is the AMHA (American Mini Horse Association) which allows for animals up to 34 inches in height. Interestingly enough, minis are actually cold blooded (like the drafts) so it takes them a bit longer to shed out after a winter. Betty often assists this process by body clipping when


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of their badges. The Bap- tist Church Children’s Home, “For the Love of Christi Grief Support Groups,” and “Camp Agape Breavement Camp for Children,” use Northwind Farm to help brighten their kids’ lives.


works with her animals regu- larly so the children are not sur- prised by any occasional “bad horse” behavior. The tiny well- behaved ponies with names like “Little Dude,” “Raven,” and “Sunday,” stand patiently tied to their rails in the large airy barn as the small children figure out how to brush them


patiently points out the finer details of horsemanship along with her assistants. Some of her assistants are members of the board that oversees the nonprof- it--Louise Hrncir, Nancy and daughter Beth Ballman helped the day I was there. As the vehicles pulled up to bring the children for their afternoon of horse time, I was amazed to see all of them spill out of the cars and run full speed up towards the barn but slow down as they walked into the aisle. It was if a strong magnet drew them towards us. Joyce Fiaccone who serves as a counselor for the Baptist Children’s Home is quite handy with horses so she aids in the coaching, too. A couple of Betty’s assistants are riding students who have virtually grown up with Betty as their “horse mentor” over the past several years. Within a few short minutes almost all of the minis had been haltered and led out of their stalls. Betty makes sure she


Betty cheerfully and


thing with positive discipline and fun. Already Counselor Joyce has seen evidence of the positive exposure to horses spilling over into her young charges’ lives. One girl in particular is having an easier time of settling down and focusing. Rather than acting out with frenetic energy the child had in four visits become so interested in the horses that she became quieter and worked on brushing her “mount.” The gear for the


necessary as the weather turns warmer. Minis tend to weigh 150 to 300 pounds and can be valued anywhere from $500 to $10,000, with an average price of about $1,500. One of Betty’s personal favorite things to do with her minis is use them in exhibitions (such as Christmas pageants) pulling small carts.


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Farm either call Betty Will at (512) 431-2189 or visit the website: http://www.northwind- farm.org/index.html.


To contact Northwind


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