Pet ownership is already known to be positive for our health by reducing stress and the high blood pressure that goes with it by keeping us active and, especially, by granting us unconditional affection.
This effect extends way beyond our beloved dogs and cats.
Mitzi Conn, founder of Now That I’m Safe Equine Rescue, says working with and being around the full-size and mini-donkeys and horses she rescues has been enormously helpful for her.
“I’ve always loved the animals. And I’ve always just felt like it’s a therapy to go out to be with them. They don’t talk back. They don’t ask anything of you. And it’s just real therapy to just sit there.”
She adds, “You know, when I was a kid, I used to tell my horse everything. Everything that I would never tell anyone, I would tell my horse. And he never judged me for anything.”
She welcomes visitors to her 10-acre ranch in Chino Valley, whether they’re prospective adopters, school groups, volunteers or families who simply want to bask in the animals’ attention and show them a little love.
“A lot of the people that come over here feel that way,” Conn says. “This is their little getaway. You know, nobody’s asking them to run to the bank or fax something or type something up. It’s like, I can just be here and relax and maybe feed them some carrots and just sit down and talk to them.”
Equines are valued for their sensitivity and ability to mirror human emotions, which is why they have gained popularity as therapy animals.
Children respond especially well to the animals, Conn says, often learning about self-acceptance or acceptance of others as they interact with them.
“It’s been great to see these young kids just really come to life with these animals, especially the ponies, because for a lot of them, that’s where they get their start and their love for horses and animals,” Conn says.
Photo courtesy of Mitzi Conn