Miniature horses making big differences

The Austin non-profit Minis and Friends is pairing mini-horses with people facing challenges.

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Austin non-profit Minis and Friends is pairing mini horses with people facing challenges. Volunteers say equine therapy helps them to heal and break down barriers.

The mini horses' quiet, calm demeanor brings out the best in people who are suffering mentally, physically or emotionally.

Saturday afternoon, the non-profit organization brought their mini horses to Marbridge in South Austin. 

"Our residents primarily have intellectual and developmental disabilities," Marbridge Villa Administrator Duncan Murray said. 

For Janice Gregory seeing mini horse SeanMonet was love at first sight. 

"It felt good, it felt really good," she said. "He put his chin on my knee and went to sleep and I've never had that happen before." 

Minis and Friends co-founder Sally Iwanski knows the power of these horses firsthand. When her daughter was a teenager struggling with mental health problems, she got her a mini horse. 

"So we got SeanMonet for her and it turned her around," she said. "It just totally turned her around. She got off her medicine and she wound up going to college and she got two and a half degrees and now she's teaching school." 

Volunteers help guide their interactions.  

"They bring a lot of joy," Murray said. "They also bring a lot of mental stimulation. A gentleman today stood and walked across the room to shake my hand who hasn't had that kind of interaction with me in about a year."

"You see these type of things," Iwanski said. "I just think it calms them, it just opens you up and relieves whatever you're feeling." 

A powerful testimony of these pint-sized ponies. 

Marbridge is just one of dozens of places Minis and Friends has visited. The organization hosts new volunteer trainings every month. All volunteers must all pass an intense safety course.  

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