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HEARTS AND HOOVES: Something to do with horses

Lin Sutherland (c) 2001


I love sharing the joy of horses with people. Often when people come to Onion Creek Ranch, they say "I have always dreamed of doing something different, something to do with horses." Here is one person who did it,and an opportunity for you.

It started 12 years ago when Veronique Matthews plunged into Life With Horses when she bought one of the beautiful Arabians from my father's herd (the mare died this year at the age of 34). Later, following a diagnosis of cancer, Veronique decided Life is too short not to follow your dreams. She rescued Toby (see attached photo), a "dwarf" miniature horse. Dwarfs are an unwanted by-product of trying to reduce a breed's size. Toby stands only 22 inches high, and is having his first birthday this week. He had clubbed feet, which she has remedied with corrective shoeing and farrier care.

Veronique trained Toby for Pet Therapy and started Hearts and Hooves to take him take into hospitals, nursing homes, schools, womens' abuse centers and 'anywhere a pet can make a difference.' She says, "Because of my past illness, I had had to find a new way of making a living. I decided I am going to train these little animals to use to make a difference in an unfortunate soul's life. I have used Toby in several hospitals in Austin and it is going very well. "

Minis are very portable and so intelligent, Veronique says. They are clean -- she shampoos them regularly, and they are easy to housebreak, so minis are good for indoor work. "It's so cute to see them trotting from classroom to classroom." She is so close to her minis that they sleep in the house with her. "They're cleaner than dogs -- they don't have fleas, and less people are allergic to horses than dogs..."

Hearts and hooves has corporate backing and private donations, which makes it possible take the horses to schools and hospitals. She has a new one, only 3 months old, Babette. Babette is knock-kneed and she is correcting her feet. She will be going into training soon.

At a recent demonstration at Onion Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas, Veronique showed how it all works, how fun it is, how she trains them, how she helps the "show reject" minis, and how you can do this too.Toby demonstrated his therapy talents, such as lying down with children and getting into her SUV for the ride.

In addition, there are several minis in the area that need rescuing, and we'll be planning that and their future use with Hearts and Hooves. Naturally, we welcome your tax deductible donations. If you want to help, or if you know of people and places her therapy minis can go visit someone in need, please email Veronique Matthews at quietswanmover@juno.com or visit her website at www.heartsandhooves.org




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