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Covering New Ground: Mini therapy horse visits Tufts

Published: 7/5/2012
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Editor's Note:
One visit at a time, Marsha Craig and her miniature horse, Lily, are breaking ground in the world of equine therapy. In two parts, Craig relates the first visits by a horse to major Boston medical facilities.
Photos by Craig's niece, Cathie Godfrey

By Marsha Craig
Lily, Jack Martin (my significant other) and I were invited to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital last fall.  The plan was for us to deliver a presentation on pet therapy to their staff and then Lily would visit their pediatric unit.  Accepting this invitation meant Lily would be the first horse allowed into a Boston medical facility.  And how wonderful it would be to visit their pediatric unit. 
Of course, we accepted.
Upon our arrival to Spaulding Rehab we were shocked to find out WHDH had sent a photographer and reporter.  This would be a visit we never dared to dream might happen.

Click for video

Then recently, Tufts Medical Center in Boston invited us to visit their adult psychiatric ward.

What were the chances of a second dream visit?

We set a date of June 16.  The Tufts staff asked if we would be interested in visiting their children's unit if the first visit went well.  Jack and I didn't hesitate to say yes.

On June 16th, we put Lily in our minivan and headed off to Boston.  Yes, everyone should put his or her mini horse in a minivan!
Lily is potty trained on grass.  Tufts, we knew, didn't have grass but there was a patch of mulch.  For two weeks prior to our visit, Jack and I trained Lily to do potty stops on a mulch bed.  Just days before our scheduled visit, she cooperated. Yeah!  
We arrived at Tufts, took Lily out of the car, and after a successful mulch potty stop, dressed Lily in her new Pet Partner work vest and her little leather sneakers.
Deep breath and we are ready to enter Tufts Medical Center. Pinch me!  I take a peek over my shoulder and see that Jack and Cathy are calm.  I see Marybeth Zambella, the Clinical Director Pratt 2 Inpatient Psychiatry, and her son, Anthony, are just beaming with anticipation and smiles.
Then I see it: a revolving door!  She's been in many elevators. She’s gone up stairs (never down them). But a revolving door? NEVER.  
Quickly, I'm talking to myself, "okay, old gal, you better take another deep breath, then enter that door like we've done it a million times."
We step inside the big opening of the door, give the door a push and take a step forward.  As the door moves slightly, Lily has heard the "whoosh" from the section of door behind her.  She stops and looks at it.  In my best calm and commanding voice, I say, "Lily, walk on" and she does without hesitation. 

Wow, we were standing in the Tufts main lobby! 

Click for Part II: Meeting the patients...

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7/5/2012 Holly Russell
Yeah Lily! How exciting for everyone to have a visit from Lily. (I had a Lily of my own - Water Lily. She is Heaven now.) I can't wait to hear more abut Lily's adventures.
7/23/2012 Sonia
Congratulations to you and Lily! What a great team you are!

"No one can teach riding so well as a horse" - CS Lewis