Miniature horse makes big impression at area nursing homes

Lillian Voth was all smiles during a visit from Cindy, a 4-year-old miniature horse, Thursday at the Baldwin Healthcare and Rehab Center.

Cindy is just 4 years old, and for the past several weeks she’s been visiting area nursing homes, entertaining and delighting each establishment’s residents.

Cindy is a miniature horse.

The 182-pound, 27.5-inch tall animal made a planned appearance Thursday afternoon at the Baldwin Healthcare and Rehab Center, received with approval by the majority of the center’s 45 residents.

“It was great; they loved it,” activities director Nicole Murry said. “I have never seen that many people happy at the same time.”

Cindy’s owner, Ottawa resident Rae Warren, said that’s the response she hopes for every time. She said the idea for the visits, five so far this year, were part of a divine plan.

“I don’t know what to say except to say it came from God,” Warren said. “I wanted to do something for the elderly. I always knew if I had an animal with me, that’d be great.”

Warren didn’t want just any animal, though. Noticing the common appearance of dogs at area nursing homes, she wanted to do something a little different. Exposed to horses at a young age, Warren said the animal was the most logical choice. After about a year scouring the Internet for an appropriate miniature, she finally settled on Cindy, who had previous nursing home experience.

Warren said the horse has a knack for entertaining the elderly, walking up to them and resting its head in their laps and on their beds. Residents Thursday were waiting eagerly for the duo’s arrival.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Warren said about engaging the elderly. “It’s all worth it just to see the sparkle in their eyes.”

But that sparkle didn’t come easily. Shortly after acquiring the small animal, Warren noticed it looked a little sickly. Experts at Kansas State University tended to the horse, which made a full recovery following necessary surgery. The ordeal set Warren back six months in her plan to visit area homes but didn’t diminish her determination.

“I’m not going to quit,” she said. “I’m going to keep doing it.”

Warren said she plans to visit as many area homes as she can find within driving distance of her home. She made the call to volunteer her time at the Baldwin center, something she’d like to see become a monthly event. Murry said that was a likely next step, especially after seeing the response from the residents.

“We were very excited all week long,” Murry said. “And they weren’t let down.”