Miniature horses make big impact on local community
Lisa Dapprich once fell off of a pony when she was a child.
Although bloodied and bruised, she got right back in the saddle.
Now, the Ross Township resident is using horses to help others.
Her two mini horses, Jiminy Cricket and Princess Lily, appear at parades, birthday parties, nursing homes, schools and other places where folks are in need of a smile. She believes the simple act of petting them brings calm and comfort to children and adults with autism, developmental delays, hyperactivity, mental health issues and geriatric conditions.
Miniature horses are about three feet tall or smaller and were historically bred to pull carts through coal mines. Unlike ponies, which have shorter legs, wider barrels and thicker necks than horses, minis are just shrunken versions of full-sized horses.
She rescued Jiminy Cricket from an animal hoarding situation in Ohio and adopted Princess Lily from a breeder who was downsizing.
During events, such as Breakfast with Santa at Avonworth Community Park, children pet the minis and learn grooming techniques and about miniature horses. Safety is Dapprich’s primary concern, so she limits the interactions to about an hour, doesn’t allow people to feed the horses and does not appear at events that serve alcohol.
Jiminy Cricket and Princess Lily ride in the back of Dapprich’s hay-filled van, giving her gentle nuzzles as they head to their next destination.
Dapprich trained retired racing horses before learning about minis and the power they have to help people.
During a recent visit to an assisted living facility, a woman talked to her excitedly, and at length, about horses. When the conversation ended, a nurse informed Dapprich that the woman was usually non-verbal.
“That floored me,” she said. “I would’ve never guessed that.”
Jiminy Cricket was a hit at Hillview Home, a senior living facility in Coraopolis, where he went dressed in his holiday best.
“It was just the sweetest thing,” says owner Mary Jo Arena-Cronin. “The residents really enjoyed it.”
Dapprich is working toward becoming a certified instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.). The nonprofit organization was formed in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association to promote equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs.
In the near future she plans to adopt more “lovebugs,” launch a mini-based anti-bullying program, offer grief counseling and visit women’s crisis shelters throughout the area.
“It’s therapeutic for me, too,” Dapprich said. “I lost my mom a few months ago, and when she passed, I really didn’t feel like doing anything. But, people were contacting me, and then you go out and see those happy faces and that motivates me to continue to do this.”
Kristy Locklin is a freelance writer.