Horses helping people – people helping horses – people helping people – this is Hope and Healing at Hillenglade.
On July 2nd just north of Nashville, Tennessee, actress, model, and animal activist Jennifer O’Neill is opening the doors of her farm for a special group of people. The public, and in particular all active Armed Forces, Veterans, First Responders and their families are invited to experience Hope and Healing at Hillenglade to celebrate Independence Day. Headlining the event will be a performance by rehabilitated Tennessee Walking Horse, Ivory Pal. Ivory Pal’s story is told in the book Ivory Pal – Born to Fly Higher by Cindy McCauley. He and his owner Rafael Valle of Ivory Knoll Ranch will join the color guard to open the event.
Meet the HHH Equines
Each member of Ms. O’Neill’s equine family has a role in giving support to veterans with PTSD and their families. As with people, each equine has a special personality and gifts that mesh with the needs of a human. As they say, “You don’t get the horse you want, you get the horse you need.”
Handsome has a special place in Jennifer’s heart as he is the last horse she bred for her line of hunter/jumper show horses. The 16.3 hands Dutch Holsteiner can relate to the residual fear that accompanies Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he had a jumping accident when he was four years old. This left him terrified when faced with a jump. T.J., the equine therapist and horse health specialist at Hillenglade, helped Handsome move past his fear.
Handsome is inquisitive, smart and is a good example of self-assurance. He delights the military families with his ground work exhibitions performed off-line. He relishes the attention and is thriving with his new found life purpose.
Dandy is a registered Palomino Quarter Horse. The 22-year-old worked as a trail horse for many years. This meant enduring all kinds of riders and non-riders. His owner, Sharon, retired Dandy at 14 and sold him to Jennifer, and in turn Dandy brought Sharon to Hillenglade. Reunited! Sharon is now part of the HHH team. Dandy is 15.1 hands high, making him perfect for older kids and larger riders. The more timid riders have found their horse in Dandy because of his quiet nature, willingness to mind and “follow the leader”.
Bru is the 16-year-old little package of kindness at just 14 hands. The blond mare was purchased to re-sell to bring in money to help fund the HHH program, but she connects so well with the veterans and their families it seems Bru may be there to stay.
Jack is also a pony, and a kind, patient boy. At only 10 hands, he was too little for the harness needed for his job as a pony-ride pony at parties. Jennifer bought him to give him another job, but he foundered early in his transition and required intervention. DVM Mark Wooter and Hillenglade’s farrier donated their services and saved Jack’s life. Now completely healthy and sporting his charming blue eyes and lion’s mane, tiny Jack is a magnet for the little kids.
Lucy and Ethel are the donkeyettes (as Jennifer calls them) – with an artistic bent. They are the canvass for little (and big) hands to finger paint. Ethel was donated to Hillenglade, and Lucy was purchased to be Ethel’s buddy. To the amusement of spectators, Lucy and Ethel love to tussle and play hard — They put on quite a show! But with visitors, they are completely gentle, and these two are the perfect starting place for young children or timid adults to learn how to feed a carrot or peppermint.
Sister Sara the big girl, is a 16.1 hand Belgian. The Craigslist ad stated that the mare was 12 years old and ready to work in the HHH program. She arrived dirty and covered in ticks, her hooves were in poor condition, and she was 300 pounds under weight. Her neck had a “pull harness” indentation. Once at Hillenglade, Sister Sara got a bath, veterinarian care and received the nourishment a girl her size required. It also turned out that Sister Sara was 20 years old, not 12! That was three years ago, but the mare has rebounded beautifully and doesn’t let her real age show as she provides quiet assistance at the farm. Her work as a “Touch-Therapy” horse is satisfying for her and for the veterans and families who need her.
Sissy the donkey’s age is an even larger mystery. Sissy was abandoned at a farm nearby. She would hang out at the fence attracted by the horses and donkeys at Hillenglade as Sissy was alone on the 40-acre farm. What’s another mouth to feed? She was brought in to join the herd. Even though it is sometimes hard to be patient while someone tries to help, Sissy stood while HHH team member Cheryl picked all the prickly briars out of her mane and tail by hand. Sissy’s job now is official greeter. Her brays echo in the hollow as she welcomes visitors to the facility.
Last but not least are Howdy and Doody. The costume-bedecked mascots help the kids navigate the obstacle course on site as well as help with other activities as needed.
All the horses and donkeys will be meeting and greeting at the annual event, which is Saturday July 2nd from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Hillenglade Farm. Admission is free, but registration is required in advance: HHH Annual Fourth of July Celebration Event Registration. In addition to the animal meet and greet, there will be pony and horse rides, sports, prizes, free food, and a mechanical cow ride.