In 2005, Sheryl G. stumbled across a photo online of a little brown and white miniature pony with one blue eye and one brown. She was immediately in love and knew she had to go meet with the breeder. She couldn’t have known that the story she would hear about that little pony’s extracurricular activities would change her life forever.
After a two hour drive, the breeder told Sheryl and her family about taking his miniature ponies on trips to local nursing homes to visit the residents. He wasn’t part of a program or organization, he just loved seeing the joy it brought to those they visited. Sheryl took home the half brother of the pictured pony that day, and later adopted the first mini when he became available.
Still, she couldn’t forget the twinkle in the man’s eye when he talked about his trips. Sheryl and her family decided to form Touching Smiles in an effort to offer equine assisted therapy to individuals with special needs and began rescuing horses to build that dream.
All of the horses are cared for under the careful supervision of a veterinarian to ensure that all members of the herd remain happy, healthy and secure. Training for the animals at Touching Smiles is all about “patience, patience, patience,” says Sheryl. Each animal takes their time to develop trust and confidence in their surroundings.
The majority of the horses at Touching Smiles are miniatures, each having lived a different path to reach their destination. A few are blind, some were neglected and others were abused. Renegade arrived at Touching Smiles and learned how to be a horse for the first time. Having been raised on a goat farm, his initial reaction towards humans and animals alike was to put his head down and charge. However, Renegade has come a long way since then, he now not only knows that he’s a horse, but has proven to be a wonderful therapy partner.
While seeing all of their horses healthy and safe is a success for the staff at Touching Smiles, seeing the breakthroughs facilitated through human/horse interactions never fails to touch their hearts. One such instance at Touching Smile involved an eight year old boy that was going through an adoption when he arrived at the facility. What Sheryl didn’t know was that the boy had been completely nonverbal until he began visiting with the horses. “I was unaware of that fact, until I saw his adoptive mother with tears running down her cheeks,” remembers Sheryl. “She then told me that he hadn’t spoken at all before that moment. That one visit confirmed for us that what we are doing matters,” she says.
These moments are what drive Sheryl and the rest of the Touching Smiles staff to keep doing what they do. Please use the information below to find out what you can do to contribute and help create these moments for more individuals at Touching Smiles.
Touching Smiles Equine Therapy
If you are interested in loaning or donating your horse trailer to this particular organization, then check out details of our Horse Trailer Donation and Sharing Program here. Then, post your comments below to help out!
Also, learn more about horse rescues in these two articles: