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Meet Linda and James Woods of Mini Hooves of Love Miniature Therapy Horses

Today we’d like to introduce you to Linda and James Woods.

So, before we jump into specific questions about your organization, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Mini Hooves of Love (MHOL) is a 501(c)3 organization that provides a variety of programs using registered therapy equine. MHOL teams travel to hospitals, children’s hospitals, schools, senior and memory care facilities. Our mission is to give people the opportunity to interact with a miniature horse to enhance their quality of life. Founded by Jim and Linda Woods in 2011 based out of Melissa, Texas, MHOL is currently comprised of 14 adults and six junior volunteers dedicated to providing therapeutic animal-assisted visits. The mini horse teams are registered through Pet Partners, the gold standard in therapy animal programs and handler registration. Because of our commitment to training, all of our minis have tested and achieved the highest rating of Complex. Our handlers complete extensive training and background checks before being independently evaluated for skills and knowledge.

Studies have shown that touch is a very important aspect in the nourishment of the human mind. There are, however, some instances where touch from another human is considered unacceptable for whatever emotional or psychological reason, but the touch of an animal is welcomed. Animals bring warmth and contentment into a place (like hospitals) where ordinarily touch is invasive or not pleasant. There is more laughter and interaction among residents and staff when animals are present, and often family members also come to visit on a pet therapy day.

Currently, we visit Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, Dallas, TX; Cook Children’s Medical Center, Fort Worth, TX; Ronald McDonald House, Dallas, TX; Ronald McDonald House, Fort Worth, TX; multiple Assisted Living & Memory Care Facilities in McKinney, Frisco, Allen, Garland, Dallas, and Sherman, camps, shelters, libraries, and hospice locations.

Our mini therapy horses are an incentive, a motivational tool, and a non-judgmental listener – all in one. Kids get excited about the library’s reading program when they get to read with a mini horse. Whether it’s one on one or a whole classroom of students eager to practice their skills, a mini horse therapy team can provide the engagement to get them in a positive mindset and ready to learn. Bookmarks are passed out to encourage the kids to read.

Adults need love too! Jobs such as doctors, nurses, attorneys and other high-stress corporate jobs take their toll emotionally on today’s workers. Mini Horse Therapy can help relieve that stress. When workers spend a few minutes with our minis, their hearts melt a little, their blood pressure goes down a bit, and for just a little while, they experience that child-like love and feelings of happiness. Sometimes that’s all they need to take a quick breath and get ready to endure the stressors of the day. That warmth gets them through the hard times well past the visit. After all, who couldn’t smile at a two-foot-tall horse?

MHOL is proud to be one of the first of 30 teams across the US, Canada, the UK and Australia to teach this inspiring program. The Just Say Whoa® to Bullying program takes a unique approach to teach bullying prevention by using mini horses to help children recognize and respect the differences in one another. Schools and organizations are always seeking new and better ways to promote children to learn acceptance, tolerance, respect and understanding of others. They also receive a JSWB bookmarker with positive quotes. “WHOA” stands for “We Help One Another,” emphasizing to the foundation of our program, which is to be kind to one another.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Mini Hooves of Love makes appearances at select public events throughout the year. We love to engage the public about what we do and how we help people have a better quality of life. Currently, we use a 2008 Caravan to transport one or two minis for therapy visits. However, we often receive requests for appearances at public events where we can continue to share our horses and engage the public about our mission. When attending these events, we need to take all five of our therapy minis, which then requires us to use a truck and horse trailer. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for venues to accommodate our parking needs. Having a large van would allow us to bring 3-4 horses, along with our volunteer handlers in addition to the current minivan to carry 1-2 horses to get us all there. By having this additional transportation, we would be able to transport them to more places to reach out to even more people bringing them encouragement to get through whatever they are going through at that time.

Sometimes just getting enough volunteers or getting the ones we have trained is a challenge. But once they are hooked, they are loyal to help us whenever possible.

Please tell us about Mini Hooves of Love Miniature Therapy Horses.
We strive to help our community make the world a kinder and gentler place by living our motto: Sometimes we need someone to simply be there, not to fix anything or do anything in particular, but just to let us feel that we are supported and cared about.

With all the chaos in the world today, and COVID making it even more difficult, we are challenged daily to come up with ways to continue spreading smiles and love that all these horses bring. There are lots of therapy dogs but it is really magical when a miniature horse walks into a room!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
We have had the support and comradery – our people who we look up to and go to when we have questions or concerns:

Jodie Diegel of Soul Harbour Ranch in Illinois
Shelly Mizrahi of Amos The Wonder Horse and Just Say Whoa to Bullying in Florida
Laurie Tietjen of P.O. Ken Tietjen Memorial Foundation and Mini Horse Heroes in New Jersey
Priscilla & Bill Darling of Mane Gait Therapeutic Horsemanship in McKinney, TX
Diana Gilger of Mystic Rock Miniatures in Oklahoma
Daniel and Carla Crider of Sunset Mountain Miniature Horses in Texas

Constant Financial supporters: Diane Fournier of the Frank & Annette Fournier Family Foundation, Richard Rowland. And of course, all our volunteers and Fans on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Contact Info:

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