Ray Huard … Fatima Martin was stunned when she saw two horses no bigger than a child’s hobby horse standing in the courtyard of Major General Murray High School.
“I didn’t know they existed that small,” said Fatima, a junior.
Rootbeer and Edward are two miniature horses who visited Murray High School as part of Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Pet Encounter Therapy (PET).
Just being able to pet and even walk the horses and other animals has worked wonders with the students, said Principal Chuck Hoover.
Rootbeer, Edward and the other animals that come on campus through PET form a bond with the students that spills over into the students’ interaction with each other and their teachers, Hoover said.
There are fewer disciplinary problems, shy students come out of their shell, and you can just see the students relax.
The miniature horses are extra special because they’re unusual and few students have seen any before, Hoover said.
“I thought they were donkeys,” said Antoni Pina, who took a turn walking a miniature horse.
“It felt like you were walking a dog, but stronger,” said Alexus Montanez after leading Rootbeer around the courtyard. “It was a weird experience.”
Rudy Pulido declared the horses to be “pretty cool” after watching Rootbeer perform his trick – rearing back on his hind legs.
Edward’s trick was snacking on grass and hay.
Rene Townsend, who was superintendent of the Vista Unified School District from 1988 to 1994, said she likes to bring Rootbeer and Edward on campus, “to make people smile.”
“That’s their job,” said Townsend, who adopted the two miniature horses a year ago. “Everybody that walks by, everybody, smiles at them, everybody.” Edward is 15 years old, 31 inches tall, and weighs 150 pounds, Townsend said.
Rootbeer, who got his name from the foamy appearance of his mane, is 14 years old, 34 inches high and weighs 200 pounds.
According to the American Miniature Horse Association (www.amaha.org), horses can be no taller than 38 inches to qualify as miniatures. The
association has about 230,000 horses registered as miniatures nationally.
Although miniature horses are sometimes mistaken for ponies, they are smaller – ponies are about 60 inches tall – and have different characteristics, such as rougher manes and tails, according to the website, www.differencebetween.com.
Miniature horses also are often used as therapy animals, as are Edward and Rootbeer.
In their case, they’ve been part of PET since February, and have visited a children’s center and a retirement home, as well as the high school, said PET Manager Robin Cohen
“Rootbeer and Edward have already proven themselves to be wonderful therapy animals,” Cohen said.
Accompanying the miniature horses on their visit to Murray High School were Zuul, a pit bull/mastiff mix who was rescued after being hit by a car; Balonee, an 11-year-old pomerance; and Cody, a 9-year-old mixed breed with a laid-back personality.
On past visits to Murray, PET has brought snakes, lizards, guinea pigs and rabbits, along with therapy dogs, Cohen said.