A lovely new children’s book, Winnie the Mini Horse by Andra and Morgan Ebert introduces children to the world of therapy mini horses and what it is like to face changes. The book helps children feel more comfortable when they are in a new situation and learn how to navigate new relationships and situations. The Ebert’s goal in writing Winnie the Mini Horse was to diminish the fear children have in change and to show them that change can be good. The book is really a lovely story and very accurately depicts some of the feelings we all have about change through the eyes of Winnie. The story of Winnie is very relatable for children and the beautiful illustrations quickly grab readers.
Upon learning about Winnie the Mini Horse, I was immediately touched by Winnie’s participation in Heartland Mini Hoofs. Andra Ebert founded Heartland Mini Hoofs in 2014 to introduce the benefits of therapy mini horses to her community. In addition to helping children manage changes in their own lives, Winnie the Mini Horse presents to them the unique work that mini horses can do. Recently, I interviewed Andra Ebert and am fortunate to be able to give you a little more information about Winnie the Mini Horse and Heartland Mini Hoofs founded in Taylorville, IL. Thank you to Andra for sharing more with us:
Will Winnie the Mini Horse be a series?
Winnie the Mini Horse will be a series. As we follow Winnie through her journey, the 2nd book of the series will focus on learning how to be a therapy horse and having the patience to stay still.
By introducing Winnie, you provide a gateway for children to learn about equine therapy. Do you find that Winnie has inspired children and made them more curious about how they can help?
Winnie the Mini Horse inspires children to be more curious about learning to read. As part of the Winnie the Mini Horse mission, the therapy mini horses are brought to schools when books are donated. Children enjoy seeing Winnie hoof print the books. They also witness how horses relate to the situation and how they are able to stand still.
How did you come up with the idea of setting up Heartland Mini Hoofs?
Andra has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a Master’s in Gerontology. She is also a Registered Nurse. After reading an article, she became intrigued by the therapeutic benefits of equine therapy. She visited Kansas City to learn more from Kate Basehor who had already been using mini horses as therapy animals. Through her trips, she learned a lot about equine therapy and started her own program.
Heartland Mini Hoofs will be celebrating its 2 year anniversary in November. So far, the charity has engaged in 200 visits with many more planned!
What therapeutic benefits you have seen during your equine visits?
Andra has seen patients that do not typically open up react and engage with the horses. Others who are often quiet speak to the horses. One benefit to using mini therapy horses is that they are eye level with patients in wheelchairs which encourages a rapport. The mini horses have lovely long lashes and large eyes which invite communication between the patient and horse. An interesting fact—horses have the second largest land mammal eyes—second only to moose!
|Winnie at work! Image via Heartland Mini Hoofs.|
What type of public events do your horses visit?
The horses visit senior homes, adult assisted living homes, hospitals, veteran’s homes and more. The horses are often working 3 days a week. Currently, Heartland Mini Hoofs has bookings into November. So, bookings should at least be 2 months in advance.
How do horses become part of the program?
Horses are chosen based upon attitude. Are they engaging? Do they come up to people? People often confuse the mini horses with ponies but they are truly horses with the brain of a horse. In the past, miniature horses were used in the coal mines as work horses.
How are the horses trained?
During the training, they get used to being touched, seeing IV poles and other medical equipment, standing still, hearing loud noises and alarms, taking elevators and going up and down stairs. It is important to prepare them for the environment they will be working in.
When the horses are at work, they wear a vest. When the vest is on, they know that they must display the correct behavior. After the vests are off, they are normal horses.
In what communities do you serve?
Heartland Mini Hoofs is based in Taylorville, IL and will visit facilities and events within a 2 hour radius. The therapy horses visit facilities in Springfield, Decatur, Jacksonville and more.
How can community members help?
Community members can volunteer to be partners. They must be available during the week. They are paired up with a horse and must commit to working with them for 6 months. Volunteers are trained and learn the horses cues.
Heartland Mini Hoofs will also be part of Just Say Whoa to Bullying where the horses will help children learn bullying prevention. The horses will serve as partners for the children. Heartland’s horses will also appear in the activity manual.
Does Winnie know she is a celebrity?
Yes! Winnie is the youngest mini horse in the program and certainly prances around! She plays around and will roll around in her work vest to get it off.
Thank you again to Andra Ebert for introducing us to Heartland Mini Hoofs. Be sure to check out the book she co-authored with her daughter, Morgan, Winnie the Mini Horse.
**Disclosure: I did receive an electronic copy of Winnie the Mini Horse to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own.