Why The Long Face? Meet The Mini Horses

They’re small, furry love hugs, and are on campus as therapy animals. You may be picturing a dog or even a cat but no. CB’s newest members of the counseling department are two miniature horses.  Mrs. Michelle Timm, the Class of 2026 counselor, is the inspiration behind bringing the miniature horse program to CB.  “The […]

They’re small, furry love hugs, and are on campus as therapy animals. You may be picturing a dog or even a cat but no. CB’s newest members of the counseling department are two miniature horses. 

Mrs. Michelle Timm, the Class of 2026 counselor, is the inspiration behind bringing the miniature horse program to CB. 

“The program is called Hearts of Happiness, an animal assisted intervention program” she says. “Myself and the wellness counselors together will be working with the students that are dealing with pretty severe anxiety and stress.”

Felicity and Angel are the two miniature horses you may have seen on campus recently or last year. These best friends are both five years old and from the same herd. They have very distinct personalities, but they have a very sibling-like dynamic. Angel is usually the boss, but they have a very loving bond and unique personalities. 

“They’re sisters with one another,” Mrs. Timm laughs before adding that “if you separate them, they neigh for each other very loudly.”

The pair is here on campus almost every Thursday at lunch to make a place where people can come and enjoy their lunch or brush them. Their corral is located in the Brother Bertram Hall Courtyard behind the admissions office, and they’ll keep returning to campus as long as weather permits. 

The minis are located behind Bertram Hall almost every Thursday during both lunches.

As the year has just begun, the program is taking small steps as everyone slowly finds their footing, but the eventual goal is creating a place where students really struggling or feeling overwhelmed can find a moment of peace and hopefully stability. 

“I want it to be open to everyone,” Mrs. Timm says. “I want everyone to have the opportunity to hang out with horses.”

Although the program is unique, it didn’t start at CB and actually has been implemented in other places by Mrs. Timm. She started the program back in the ’90’s. Then and even today, it’s not a common practice to use miniature horses as a school therapy animal. 

“Miniature horse are used a lot in nursing homes & hospitals,” Mrs. Timm shares. “But never have I met anyone as a counselor in a school in this capacity using horses.”

Before coming to CB, Mrs. Timm and her horses have worked for Lodi Unified School District and at the St. Mary’s Elementary School in Sacramento. But Mrs. Timm has had this idea for a long time, and growing up with horses taught her how therapeutic they can be.

“I did my masters thesis on animal assisted therapy with a miniature horse,” she says. “I used to do it in Lodi Unified, and at that point, people were just starting to hear about therapy dogs but not miniature horses.”

Students spending their lunch visiting the minis.

Bringing miniature horses to school is more than just a fun way to try and incorporate an animal on campus. Miniature horses can live for 30 years, and their longevity makes them more favorable compared to dogs or cats. Their small size makes them easier to transport than a normal horse, but they still possess all the same amazing traits. 

“Horses also have this amazing innate ability to see things that humans can’t,” she explains. “They’re very intuitive.”

The program has received tremendous support from the administration as it has become more seriously integrated with the CB community. When Mrs. Timm started at CB last year, she brought the idea to her interview and Dr. Crystal Leroy was a major advocate for including it at CB. 

“[Dr. Leroy] was interested in the whole program before she even met me,” Mrs. Timm says with a smile. “It was like fate.” 

Another integral part in the successful introduction of the miniature horses has been support from the wellness counselors. Whether you’re just interested in seeing a miniature horse for the first time or you’re looking for some support and anxiety relief, the program has something for everybody. CB Wellness Counselor Mrs. Juanita Patterson ‘81 recognizes the multitude of benefits the program has and will continue to bring. 

“I’m excited that students get to see this novelty that is miniature horses,” she emphasizes. 

Mrs. Patterson explains that the inclusion of miniature horses is quite unexpected because when most people think animal assisted intervention usually involves dogs, but the miniature horses have a calming, rhythmic movement. Watching them do simple things like eating can be quite soothing for someone feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Mrs. Timm will even eventually offer the opportunity to decorate the miniature horses with things like stencils and glitter. 

“Makeup on the minis!” Mrs. Patterson explains with a chuckle.

Although miniature horses may be perceived as more durable and therefore less cuddly than a house pet, don’t be fooled — they’re very fond of hugs and other forms of affection. 

“They are very calming, loving, and affectionate. They cuddle up and get right next to you as if they are asking for a pet,” Mrs. Patterson describes with awe.

Watching the minis can be very relaxing!

The goal of the program is to continue successfully helping kids and expand as more people start to recognize it as a safe and welcoming place. Eventually, Mrs. Timm hopes to have the horses acclimated enough that they can be walked around campus while students are about. Hopefully by the time final exams start, Felicity and Angel will be ready enough to cruise around campus and offer students a spark of joy amidst the sea of stress. Mrs Timm even reveals that the horses are potty trained, meaning you might spot them roaming inside the halls or even an occasional classroom. 

But for now, they’re just around for lunch. Mrs. Timm wants to allow everyone on campus, whether they’re specifically in the support groups or not, to have an opportunity to find support and safety.

“I want it to be a place where people can bring their lunch and their friends and just de-stress,” she emphasizes. “We want to bring more of a calming factor, a place of acceptance and kindness, and that’s what I’m hoping this program creates over the campus. ” 

It has already successfully stirred excitement among campus, but as word continues to spread more students will recognize its value. Kerrigan Lynch (‘24) recently participated in a lunchtime visit to the miniature horse corral at lunch and was entranced by the calming atmosphere.

“The area just feels like it’s an escape from the school work and the stress of everything,” she says. “When I went, I just felt relieved and it was so nice to have a distraction from the usual daily stressors.”

Everyone has high hopes for the future and continued growth of the program. As it continues to be nurtured, its influence on the students will continue to help reduce anxieties and offer a place for quiet, calm lunches.

“Mrs. Timm has done lots of research and has used her minis in previous schools very successfully,” Mrs. Patterson explains with excitement.  “We’re hoping that Hearts of Happiness has the same success here and that both Angel and Felicity can reach as many students as possible.”

The impact Felicity and Angel will hopefully continue to grow as they are further welcomed into the CB community. They are an adorable addition that may be an unexpected outlet and tool for many CB students.

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