MARIANNA, FLA. -- Elmer the miniature therapy horse brought love to weary children and adults on his visits to the American Red Cross shelters housing dozens displaced by Hurricane Michael across northwestern Florida.
The tawny horse impressed shelter residents and disaster workers with his shocking white mane, soft coat, stylish and specially fitted rubber shoes, a purple and black Halloween-themed headband, and calm demeanor. He quickly lifted spirits and elicited excitement on his stops in Gretna, Blountstown and Marianna.
Young shelter residents petted 4-year-old Elmer gently and seemed unfazed when told that the horse was not suitable for riding. Many older residents appeared mesmerized by the equine visitor, patting his nose and mane lovingly, following him around the shelter, and posing for selfies with him.
Over the course of a week, Nancy and Joey Lambert of Kindred Spirits Therapy Minis in Baker, Fla., escorted Elmer through eight Red Cross facilities in the Florida Panhandle.
They said taking one of their four therapy mini horses—Elmer, Picasso, Cavilear and Brody—to hospitals and hospices, convalescent homes, assisted-living facilities and shelters is the focus of their nonprofit business.
Rod Winter, manager of the Red Cross shelter at the Jackson County Agriculture Center, announced early in the day that clients could expect a special visitor. By mid-day, he said, the children “were bouncing off the walls” with excitement. It was mid-afternoon when Elmer sauntered into the Jackson County Agriculture Center like a rock star into a concert.
Having experienced firsthand a visit by miniature horses at a Red Cross shelter in Austin, Texas, Winter welcomed the soothing relief and support the animal provided.