Residents enrich their lives, and others, through volunteering

Sue Robisch

Mabel has just completed her physical therapy session at the Children’s Clinic in Tucson. She and her mom and dad are getting ready to leave when all of a sudden her face lights up and a huge smile spreads across her face. Waiting to greet her is Lillie, the miniature horse. Lillie and Mabel are great friends. They see each other on a regular basis at Lillie’s home, Little Hooves & Big Hearts in Oracle, Arizona.

Little Hooves & Big Hearts is a not for profit equine assisted therapy program using miniature horses. Mabel is just one of the many special needs children who are enriching their lives through the therapy offered at Little Hooves & Big Hearts by instructors who are certified in equine guided education.

Mabel has been attending therapy sessions at Little Hooves & Big Hearts since January 2013. She lives with cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. But her condition does not dampen her enthusiasm for working with the minis. When she first started working with them, her muscle development did not allow her to even hold onto the lead rope. Now her body is strengthened so that she can sit up for longer periods of time. She not only leads the minis but is able to drive a team.

The miniature horses have become a source of motivation for Mabel. She knows that in order to play with them she needs to sit up for long stretches of time. The therapists at Little Hooves & Big Hearts are very skilled at having Mabel work with her arms and hands without realizing that it is exercise. Mabel has told her mom and dad that in a perfect world she would love to play with the minis every day.

And Mabel has become a source of motivation for SaddleBrooke residents, Sue and Lou Robisch, who volunteer to be with Mabel and Lillie as well as other children with special needs and their mini friends. Sue and Lou are just two of several who volunteer at Little Hooves & Big Hearts to help out wherever needed.

Many children with special needs like Mabel are benefiting from the one-on-one therapy sessions offered by this amazing program. The sessions are provided at no charge to children with disabilities. The populations served, but not limited to, are children with autism, ADHD, selective mutism, those who are behaviorally challenged and of course, children with cerebral palsy. Individuals interested in learning more about Little Hooves & Big Hearts should go to their website at or call the Oracle office at 520-896-2820.