Miniature horses delight nursing home residents

Carol Lawrence Published: September 3, 2009
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — There was the Alzheimer’s patient who uttered her first words in years: "She’s beautiful.”

And there was the elderly man who never said a word but managed a wide grin.

They are just two of many reasons Ginny Mills does what some might find unthinkable: She takes her miniature horse, Peanut, to visit lonely, tucked-away residents of the Pikes Peak region.

Mills, who grew up in the small town of Reading, Ohio, was the eldest of seven children in her family. Her family didn’t have much money or many material things, but it had plenty of love to spread, she said.

"We were brought up to help out others in need. We always had room if people needed a place to stay. My mother would have me clean my elderly neighbor’s house, and I never expected to get paid.”

Still, working with horses was not a given. Family members recalled Mills’ childhood love for horses, but she didn’t.

"Being in an area conducive to owning a horse really rekindled a childhood infatuation for horses that I didn’t even know I had,” she said. Her mom’s letters to an uncle revealed the girl was horse-crazy.

Mills moved to Black Forest, outside Colorado Springs, in 1990 with her husband, Richard, and their sons.

Shortly after, Ginny got her first horse, Banda. Seven years later, Moriah, a quarter horse, came along.

When Banda died, Ginny thought Moriah needed a companion.