Editor’s Note: This story is part of our Celebrate Community series, which focuses on nonprofit organizations that improve North Okaloosa County residents’ quality of life.
CRESTVIEW — A group of miniature horses in Baker is helping Northwest Florida residents in their time of need.
Nancy Lambert said animal-assisted therapy work with her regular-sized horse, Pepper, led her to form Kindred Spirits Therapy Minis last year.
"A friend of mine worked at a school for gifted adults. I had bought one of my larger horses to her facility several times. Because some of the people there weren't mobile and couldn't come out and see the large horse, that kind of gave me the idea for the miniature horse. So I started doing my research and talking to people who do miniature programs.
"I did a year's worth of work before I actually launched anything. I had to make sure that I had insurance and I had to make sure that I actually knew what I was doing. In 2015, I started training the minis and making sure they were the kind of personalities that we needed for the program, and working on my documentation to obtain my 501 (nonprofit status,)" Lambert said.
Now the certified Pet Partners handler has three miniature horses — Picasso, Elmer and Cavalier — that go indoors to visit with residents and patients in hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other areas.
The minis have made hundreds of therapy visits. Kindred Spirits currently supports 12 facilities, bringing cheer and good will to area residents of all ages.
Lambert, her husband Joey, and other family members who work at the donation-supported Kindred have been to Silvercrest Manor, Shoal Creek Rehabilitation Center and Crescent Park Village in Crestview; a veterans facility in Fort Walton Beach; and other Northwest Florida locations.
"We've also supported two events for awareness fundraiser Prater-Willie Syndrome, and Turner Syndrome," Lambert said.
Nancy says the most rewarding part about her service is the reactions they get from people.
"Most residents love on them, some sing to them, talk to them, hug them. Their smiles — people come alive. We've had facilities tell us that they have people they have never seen smile until that that day, and they haven't stopped smiling.
"It's good for the minis too. They encourage those relationships and they encourage that attention, and they enjoy it as well," she said.
“… It makes me feel good inside that I get the responses that I do."
Learn more about this organization here: www.facebook.com/KindredSpiritsTherapyMinis/