The tallest of Toni Hadad’s miniature horses may stand just 36 inches, but he – and the rest of her miniature herd – is all heart. Since Toni founded Lifting Spirts Miniature Therapy Horses, Tonka, Banshee and the rest of her mini gang have travelled all over New England, spreading joy, hope and love to children and adults of all ages and abilities.
“I’ve witnessed so many breakthroughs,” Toni explains, “from nonverbal Alzheimer’s patients who begin to talk and interact with the horses, to children with autism inspired to pet an animal for the first time. But what’s really amazing is how everyone’s faces light up when we enter a room or walk down the hallway.”
Toni and the Lifting Spirts horses currently bring their unique brand of animal therapy to more than 60 hospitals, Veterans Affairs’ homes, schools, rehabilitation centers and hospice facilities. But it’s not just the school children, residents and patients who benefit, Toni insists that both she and her six minis gain a lot from the program too.
Many of the Lifting Spirits minis were rescued from neglectful homes, kill pens and auctions. Under Toni’s loving care, these once discarded horses find new purpose, bringing smiles to the faces of all who meet them. As for Toni, she says: “Life can take you on amazing journeys and this is the path I am following now. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”