‘Holy-cow-crazy awesome’

A miniature horse named Charlie brings a special brand of pet therapy to children at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Allie Westphal stood nose to nose with a miniature horse named Charlie and smiled.

She ran her hands over his neck and petted his painted coat.

“He’s soft,” she said.

For the 9-year-old girl from Saginaw, Michigan, the one-on-one equine visit represented a highlight of her stay at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

She giggled over Charlie’s colorful shoes―which help his footing on hospital floors―and accepted little horse kisses.

Charlie, 3 feet tall and 215 pounds, delivered a special brand of therapy to Allie and dozens of other children at the hospital on this special day. Ronica Froese, the owner of Little Horses Big Smiles Therapy, went from floor to floor at the hospital with the Child Life team, introducing him to children from infancy through teen years.

“Charlie will be 3 on May 7, so he’s just a baby,” she told Allie.

“I like horses,” Allie said. “I’ve wanted to ride a horse ever since I was 1.”

“Oh, he likes you,” Froese said, as the girl nuzzled the horse. “He’s smiling at you!”

For many children, Charlie showed off his basketball skills. He picked up a soft basketball and dunked it in a hoop just his size.

When 9-year-old Addison Post visited, Charlie didn’t feel like taking shots.

He picked up the ball, tossed his head, and flung the ball back toward Froese.

Addie and her 6-year-old sister, Ciri, burst into giggles.

Froese, hands on hips, tried to look sternly at the horse.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

Charlie snorted, and that sent the girls giggling again.

The visit was a welcome respite for Addie, who has spent two weeks in the hospital as she gets tests and treatments for a rare condition called oculoectodermal syndrome.

“As soon as she heard there was going to be a horse here today, she was through the roof,” said her dad, Jon Post. “She was so excited.”

After they met the horse, Addie and Ciri played with the stuffed ponies they had received from Charlie. The mood represented a big switch for Addie, and left her parents feeling grateful for the brighter day.

“This is like holy-cow-crazy awesome,” Post said. “For her to get as excited as this, that is worth its weight in gold.”

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Comments (13)

  • You go Charlie.. Your Awesome.. So are You Ronica.. thx for what you do for the kids there. Our daughter was there for a week in 2010 due to being hot by a mini van..Brain injury etc..

  • This is what we need to see more of! A mini horse and a child. What is more pure? The love, joy and respect on both is something you cannot hide! Awesomesome article! Proud of Charlie and Romica and her helpers. God is smiling down on this day!

  • What an amazing visit! We look forward to more visits in the future. Our slogan is May I always be remembered by the hoofprints and smiles I leave behind… I think my Charlie left lots of smiles beind on Thursday!!

    • He certainly did. It was wonderful to see the kids meet Charlie. They loved getting eye-to-eye with a horse just their size. Nice work, Ronica and Charlie!

  • Thank you so much For brightening our little girls day… She enjoyed the horse so much and keeps talking about it! What an awesome experience!

  • It’s amazing how this pony has brought so much joy to so many children that need that uplifting feeling. It puts a huge smile on my face to know it brings happiness to children going through so much 😍😍😍

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