‘Horse Hugs’ Create Instant and Lasting Relationships
By kay Walburger



 Excitement and anticipation fill the air as everyone gets prepared for a visit from the cadre of miniature horses. They have come to give their “Horse Hugs” to waiting families and friends as they spread the ‘Magic of Unconditional Love.’ Hearts wide open, no one is able to resist the adorable and sweet faces, huge soulful eyes, and playful spirits.

“An animal visit can break up the monotony of daily routines in the hospital or nursing home. Miniature horses, with their wonderful personalities and small size, are perfect therapy animals. Visits with these adorable little horses can help a patient feel less lonely and less depressed. The horses offer entertainment and encourage families to visit more frequently, often bringing in the grandchildren to see the horses,” says Sandy Spooner, the founder of “Horse Hugs.”

“Miniature horses are the perfect size to put their little noses over the bedrail of bedridden patients or into the lap of a patient in a wheelchair. Medical studies indicate that stroking an animal can reduce a person’s blood pressure. Healthcare workers have reported that patients become more active and responsive both during and after their visits with these little ambassadors.”

Sandy Spooner explains how she started bringing her miniature horses to visit many of the segment of society who are often neglected or in some type of personal crisis, be it physical or physiological. “I read an old book about having a life worth living in a nursing home using “The Eden Alternative.”

“Horse Hugs was started in 2001 to promote the human-animal bond through visits with miniature horses. After owning miniature horses for a few years, it became very apparent to us that their loving personalities and sweet nature had a very calming effect on friends and visitors. We realized that by visiting with these little horses, we could bring smiles to the faces of patients who might otherwise be feeling bored, lonely or depressed,” continues Sandy.

“We started by visiting nursing homes, hospices, Alzheimer’s and assisted-care centers, and hospitals. We soon were asked to make guest appearances at the  homes of very sick children. There is nothing like having a horse in your bedroom to help a child forget about their pain or discomfort for a few hours.”

Sandy reports, “I have one lovable animal that has special ‘Horse ESP’ and knows exactly where to go and what to do, leaving me completely amazed. He is quite normal but at certain times he knows someone needs his love and attention; he’ll push open a door, go into a room and put his head into someone’s lap, making such a difference in that person’s life that the staff is amazed and thrilled by the progress he initiates!

“Some amazing breakthroughs have been made through this labor of love. We had one lady ask us to bring a little horse to see her husband who had suffered a stroke and was non-communicative. For five weeks or so we came and talked to the man about the mini horse and helped his hand stroke the animal. When he was able to talk again, he asked “Where is the horse?”

“Hospitals and nursing homes have reported patients welcome the change to their established routines and look forward to the horses coming to visit. We take pictures of the resident with the horses and give them a 5x7 photo to put up on their bulletin board. This gives them something to show visitors and talk about between our visits.

“We visited a safe home for abused and abandoned children, assisting them in healing their lives and taking back whatever had been taken from them. We were told that one young girl, after our third visit, said “The little horses liked me best!” This child had been so withdrawn that these were her very first words since coming to this safe home!

“We are thrilled to bring the ‘Sunshine of Joy and Laughter’ to these all-too-often neglected members of society. The staff has informed us that some of these residents have not had a visit in three years. We feel this is a special niche for “Horse Hugs!”

“Volunteers are used to help take horses into the different settings. Daytime hours are staffed by our adult volunteers and afternoon hours are staffed by our high school students who we have trained to safely present the miniature horses weighing between 150 and 200 pounds. Many of the people are frail,  so it is important to make the visit personal, yet safe.

“Saturday younger volunteers are brought in to be trained to exercise the petite horses and put them through their paces in our little arena. The youngsters seem to be satisfied just playing with horses and only go to the next level when they are teenagers.

“Horse Hugs had its first summer camp program this July. The purpose of camp was to help raise money to pay for surgery for one of our little rescues and to teach new skills to some of our Horse Hugs volunteers. Campers were paired off and assigned to a horse; they groomed, exercised, fed and cared for their horse for the entire week. At the end of camp we held a horse show for parents and friends where the campers were able to show off their new skills.”

Horse Hugs is a non-profit, all volunteer group in Southern California using miniature horses to visit patients in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, assisted-care centers, special needs’ children, at-risk teens, prisons and juvenile detention centers.

For more information, contact Horse Hugs, 43980 Mahlon Vail Circle, #904, Temecula, CA 92592 or visit  All donations are tax deductible

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