Miniature horse serves as therapy animal in Erie
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ERIE, Pa. -- Cimarron is curious, fun-loving and even mischievous at home. But it's difficult to get upset with him.
He has such a special way of bonding with people, he almost appears to be human.
"He's a unique horse," said Tina Borland, 50, of Platea, a private at-home caregiver whose 4-year-old miniature horse has provided therapy to the elderly as well as mentally and physically challenged people around Erie for the past three years.
Their work is done as part of the Horse Ministry, an outreach program Ms. Borland created in conjunction with the Erie Seventh-day Adventist Church, where Ms. Borland is a community service leader.
"It's amazing what the horse does for people. He just absolutely loves people," said Ms. Borland, who received Cimarron as a gift from her husband, Earl, in 2008. "He is quiet, submissive, laid-back. He just knows his job. It's just amazing. That's what makes him so special."
Cimarron might steal Ms. Borland's bucket and run away with it, or swipe the feather duster she uses to clean cobwebs in Cimarron's barn at Crazy Acres Ranch in Platea. But when he enters nursing homes or private homes, Ms. Borland said, a change comes over him.
Cimarron makes people smile and laugh. They feel better having him around, even for just a little while.
"You really have to be there to see the magic happen," said Ms. Borland, who fell for Cimarron at first sight four years ago. He was about 20 minutes old when Ms. Borland began petting him. At that moment, she was hooked. So was Cimarron. That's when Earl Borland gave him as a gift "just because he loves me," Tina Borland said.
She wanted others to feel that special connection. "I didn't want him to just see the pasture," Ms. Borland said.
He made the first of his annual appearances at Fairview Township's Memorial Day parade when he was 11 months old. Then, Ms. Borland said, "I got this idea of taking him to nursing homes."
Cimarron, who is about 34 inches tall, regularly climbs into Ms. Borland's van and heads out for his visits. He rides well in the van. He also likes elevators.
He rode an elevator during his first visit -- an unscheduled appearance at Pleasant Ridge Manor West in Girard.
Cimarron was greeted unexpectedly on the first floor by a resident and her aide. "I was worried about it. I wanted to [acclimate him] a little bit at a time," Ms. Borland said. "I had no choice but to walk him up to her."
Cimarron calmly laid his head in her lap. "Her hands brushed across his eyes back and forth," Ms. Borland said. "He just gave a big sigh."
Ms. Borland enjoys making these visits, too. Even when she feels too tired to move, "I'll still drag myself out of the house to get him and take him," she said. She has seen the positive impact Cimarron has on people. That's worth the extra effort, said Ms. Borland, who worked at Pleasant Ridge Manor from 1984 to 1998.
"I love taking care of people," she said. "I just know that these people need to be loved, and an animal gives unconditional love."
First Published November 18, 2012 12:00 am