JP and Tiny Tim

Tiny Tim is a special needs miniature horse — his legs are twisted at the knee. It’s a little more difficult for him to walk, but he still makes the rounds as well as any of his peers. When he was found by Kelly King, the executive director at Flames to Hope, she realized that he would need a little bit of extra love. Luckily, the guests at Flames to Hope are more than willing to give him that love.

JP, a young man on the autism spectrum, is one of those guests. He comes out to Flames to Hope with his grandparents often to see Tiny Tim specifically. JP relates more to Tiny Tim than any of the other horses. When asked about their relationship, JP’s grandmother says, “Tiny Tim is special needs himself, so they have kind of a special rapport there.” When you see JP and Tiny Tim together, that rapport becomes very apparent.

Their relationship has been great for JP outside of Flames to Hope as well. His grandparents say that the immediate connection JP formed with Tiny Tim and the other miniature horses has had a calming effect. He seems more relaxed now, and JP’s grandmother attributes it to the unconditional love of Tiny Tim and the other horses. She says, “They don’t care who you are. They don’t care if you’re autistic.” That’s certainly true. Tiny Tim and the other horses are just happy to have another close friend.

Flames to Hope

Flames to Hope started when Kelly King and her husband, Ron, decided to march with their miniature horse, Trigger, in a parade. They had such a great response that they wanted to share Trigger and their other mini horse, Reba, with more people. They decided to start with people who might not normally be able to get out to interact with animals, and brought their two mini horses into a nursing home in Noble, OK.

One of the staff members remarked that it was a perplexing sight to see a horse roaming the halls of their care facility, but the joy that Reba and Trigger brought to the residents was amazing. Kelly says that the horses took right to it, particularly Reba, who would not let a resident walk by without at least giving her a pat on the head. Since then, Flames to Hope has expanded greatly.

Kelly and Ron have sectioned off part of their property to create an on-site facility where people can come out to interact with their horses. They’ve also taken in a lot more horses. Kelly says that the space has become a defacto miniature horse sanctuary, bringing in miniatures that need a home from all around the surrounding area. It’s good that they’ve brought in so many, because the minis have a lot of jobs to do.

Flames to Hope still visits care facilities with their Hope and Honor program, serving more than 80 across Oklahoma, but now they also have room for guests to visit them on site. Their Navigating Life program helps people of all ages who have experienced emotional trauma, have mental disabilities, or struggle with substance abuse. Their Read at Ease program gives kids who struggle with reading a chance to read in a non-judgemental environment to miniature horses. The people and horses at Flames to Hope even offers team-building workshops through their Tactical Teamwork program.

When Trigger first marched in that parade, no one expected any of this to happen, let alone Kelly and Ron. They serve so many people. The miniature horses of Flames to Hope are role models for us to look up to, which is impressive since most of them are barely over three feet tall.

Gwen and Reba

Reba likes getting dressed up. She likes being outside. She likes having stories read to her. Reba is also a miniature horse.

In fact, she’s one of the star miniature horses at Flames to Hope, an equine-assisted therapy program in Noble, OK, which exclusively uses miniature horses to connect with people. They work with people of various challenges, ages, and backgrounds. Reba is heavily involved with Flames to Hope’s Read at Ease program, which allows children who lack confidence while reading the ability to practice in front of mini horses.

One of the kids who reads to Reba regularly is Gwen. She’s been visiting Reba and Flames to Hope for awhile now, and in that time the results have been amazing. Gwen’s mother decided to put Gwen in the Read at Ease program at Flames to Hope in an attempt to boost her daughter’s reading level, acknowledging that the whole idea sounded a little weird at first. And when you look at the process, it can seem a bit out of the ordinary.

When Gwen comes in to visit Reba, she usually puts on a quick fashion show with the mini horse — dressing Reba in different clothing and accessories as a way to loosen up. Then the reading begins, and that’s where the true magic happens. Like Gwen’s mother puts it, her daughter is able to open up with the horse. Gwen can read to Reba, and she can make mistakes while doing it. She doesn’t have to worry about being criticized mid-sentence. It may seem like a strange way to learn on the surface, but the results have been hard to argue with.

Gwen’s reading performance has jumped up four levels in just four months, and her mother has noticed her daughter’s added confidence. Gwen really likes reading now. She even says that it’s fun to come out and read to Reba, and Reba never gets tired of hearing new stories.

Learn more about the programs at Flames to Hope