June 2016 LoveWay Horse of the Month: Merryweather

by Caitlyn Andrews June 02, 2016

LoveWay Therapy June Horse of the Month Mini Donkey

Every month we feature a therapy horse from LoveWay, an equine assisted therapy non-profit organization in Middlebury, Indiana. This month's therapy horse is a little different from the therapy horses we've featured in the past. Every horse at LoveWay is unique in their own way, but Merryweather, in particular, stands out against her equine peers. Merryweather is living proof that therapy horses come in all shapes and sizes.

Miniature Donkey Therapy Horse at LoveWay

Merryweather, a mini donkey at LoveWay, stands patiently for her photo shoot.

Merryweather Joins the Equine Staff

Meet Merryweather, a 9-year-old miniature "Jerusalem" donkey. She joined the LoveWay staff in May 2015 and has been a much-loved part of the program ever since. Sometimes, when a horse joins the team little is known about their history. In Merryweather's case, LoveWay equine manager, RJ Arndt, has not only known Merryweather for the donkey's entire life, but she even knew her parents. RJ and her sister used to work together at a petting zoo in Middlebury. When it closed they bought Merryweather's parents, Fonzie and Sweetheart.Sweetheart, the mother, was named for her unusual temperament for a donkey. She was very friendly with a sweet disposition. She passed down her good mind to both of her babies, Valentino (Merryweather's older brother born on Valentine's day) and Merryweather. Merryweather was named after one of the fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty. With her sweet personality, RJ knew that she would be a good fit for LoveWay and donated her to the program.

Sweetheart, the mother, was named for her unusual temperament for a donkey. She was very friendly with a sweet disposition. She passed down her good mind to both of her babies, Valentino (Merryweather's older brother born on Valentine's day) and Merryweather. Merryweather was named after one of the fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty. With her sweet personality, RJ knew that she would be a good fit for LoveWay and donated her to the program.

Mini Donkey in an Equine Therapy Program

You might be wondering, where does a mini donkey fit in with a therapy program? Well, the buildings for one! Merryweather is so small that she gets the honor of meeting first-time students before they are allowed to enter the barn. She's brought inside the office to meet them. She doesn't even mind when she's greeted by screaming kids.

Merryweather is not just an ambassador for the new students, but for new horses, too. Most horses have never seen a mini donkey before. It's hard to tell what it is about them (maybe the ears?) but mini donkeys have a tendency to make horses nervous. This is why the new horses at LoveWay are turned out with Merryweather first. It helps them become desensitized to the new things they will encounter in their therapy horse training.Most horses are afraid of her at first, but then get used to the little donkey. One horse that recently retired from LoveWay,

Most horses are afraid of her at first, but then get used to the little donkey. One horse that recently retired from LoveWay, Josie, had a bit of a different reaction to Merryweather. She treated her like it was her baby! She was very protective of her and wouldn't eat her grain when they were in a field together. Instead, she wanted Merryweather to have all of her food! Merryweather loved the extra food, but it wasn't good for her to eat so much and Josie really needed the grain, so they eventually had to be separated.

A Unique Addition to LoveWay, Inc.

When Merryweather first arrived at LoveWay she didn't take long to get accustomed to her new life, but she did have one issue. She was afraid of wheelchairs. To get her over her fear, the staff would sit in a wheelchair while brushing her and feeding her treats. Now, she loves wheelchairs because she associates them with attention! Her size makes her perfect for brushing and for students that are afraid of horses. She is a great addition to the Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) classes that teach character values for at-risk students. These classes help students relate to their equine partner. They mainly involve grooming, leading and groundwork. Merryweather is so gentle and sweet, and just the right size, that she's a favorite for these classes.

 Featured Therapy Horse Mini Donkey

Merryweather checks out the camera for her closeup.

Though Merryweather is small, she's still a donkey, which means she's very vocal! She acts like a watch dog. Every Thursday a storm test siren can be heard at LoveWay and Merryweather always answers it with her loud braying. Sometimes, she can be heard making squeaking noises in her stall when she's ready for her food. Her voice definitely sets her apart from the other therapy horses.

Big Plans for a Little Donkey

So, what's in the future for Merryweather? She eventually will participate in riding classes. She has had children ride her before so the transition from lead line classes to riding classes shouldn't be a problem for her. The next big step for her will be visiting nursing homes as a therapy horse. She just needs to work on her trailering skills a bit first! She has a lot of potential to grow in the therapy program. Until then, she's happy to participate in the EAL classes and listen to the screams and laughter of the new students when she surprises them with an office visit.

Click here to find out more about the LoveWay Therapy Program!

Featured Therapy Horse of the Month

"She's great to have around because she's so different," Caitlin Wilson- the newest addition to the LoveWay staff.



Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews

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