WOOSTER, Ohio – What child wouldn’t want a pony to pet and love?
A unique, nonprofit organization, Personal Ponies, regularly brings healing to hurting children and their families all over the nation – for free.
Randy and Melissa Willard at Life’s Little Adventure’s Farm, 9199 Burbank Rd, Wooster, are the state directors for Ohio.
The Willards and other volunteers are busy helping handicapped children develop better self-esteem. Melissa Willard has placed several little Shetland ponies in homes of differently-abled children.
The Willards also open their farm by appointment for groups of all ages to enjoy the animals for an hour or two.
Four-legged counselors. The Personal Ponies program works to improve a person’s self-image despite his disability or trauma.
The short, tubby, furry Shetland ponies are the right size for wheelchair-bound youngsters to mount, ride and even learn to care for.
These ponies actually seem to sense the need for gentleness and tenderness with their young charges.
“This sort of therapy is far more effective than years of counseling for children in pain and is completely free,” Willard said.
She notes these comforting animals have been a blessing to some children who have witnessed domestic violence.
“It reduces their stress level and frustration if they spend time here before they are returned to their home and a upsetting environment.”
Groups from the local Every Women’s House, which serves victims of domestic violence, also benefit by visiting Personal Ponies.
Room for volunteers. The Willards welcome volunteer help or donations. On the family’s wish list for the program is an older truck and a hay wagon, hay, feed, straw, used tack or anything a pony can pull.
“Our ministry is so multi-faceted that there are many small ways that people can help relieve some of the burden from time to time,” Melissa Willard said.
The Willards’ three home-schooled children, Lizzie, Kassie and Rob, help feed, clean up and exercise these 15 or so equines on a daily basis.
The family has worked hard to revamp an old barn and make more enclosures since renting this farm a couple years ago.
All work for the Personal Ponies program is done on a volunteer basis. They breed, train, and give ponies to children who are disabled, chronically ill, or who have undergone a serious trauma.
Willard’s goal is to have three volunteer families in every Ohio county.
“We especially need people willing to breed ponies for the program, people to promote the program in their area and quiet and calm equines that can be used for the program.”
The Willards look at their involvement as a ministry and also welcome volunteers as prayer partners.
“Wonderful members give devoted time and bring ‘pony magic’ with lots of smiles to these children and their families. That is our mission,” said Pat Hyde, state director in Pennsylvania.
How does program work?
PERSONAL PONIES is a national organization dedicated to the belief that the life of a child with disabilities can be enriched by having a pony to love and care for.
The volunteer organization provides miniature Shetland ponies to families of disabled children, completely without charge, for the lifetime use of the child.
No previous experience with horses is required to receive a pony, but recipients are required to spend sufficient time with a local representative to learn about the care and maintenance of a pony; to provide for the feeding, shelter and maintenance of their pony according to the group’s guidelines; to maintain records on their pony’s care and to submit those records to their state director annually; and to maintain an ongoing relationship with their representative so that we can offer assistance and guidance when needed.
Volunteers assume the same responsibilities as families and are required to provide for the care of the ponies assigned to them.
Families who cannot keep a pony at their home, may be given a pony to visit and care for that is maintained by a nearby volunteer.
Ponies are never owned by any family or volunteer and remain the sole property of the organization. However, once use of a pony is granted, the pony will not be removed except at the request of the family or volunteer, or if problems arise concerning the pony’s welfare.
Neither recipient families nor volunteers are expected to maintain the life of a pony when illness or injury creates an unreasonable financial burden. Ponies in need of extensive veterinary care are humanely euthanized.
Ponies are never sold. Once they become part of the Personal Ponies family, they receive lifetime care.
When a child outgrows a pony, that pony will be returned to the program and placed with a new family. Thus a single pony may serve many children in its typical 30-year lifetime.
Get the details
Randy and Melissa Willard, state directors
Life’s Little Adventures Farm
9199 Burbank Rd.
Wooster, OH 44691
Pat and Don Hyde, state directors
Grampian Galloway Farm
Box 128 H.C.R. #1
Shinglehouse, PA 16748
* WEST VIRGINIA
Gary Edwards, state director
RR#1 Box 53
Augusta, WV 26704
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