Wyoming Seniors Say Pair Of Mini Horses Make The Best Valentines

Chip and Tootsie Roll are a pair of miniature horses that have been cheering up folks at Wyoming senior care centers. On Monday, they were valentines for nearly 30 residents at Amie Holt Care Center in Buffalo.

DK
Dale Killingbeck

February 13, 20245 min read

Amie Holt Care Center resident Beverly Landrey joked that she was “born” on a horse. The horse lover enjoyed getting some one-on-one time with Chip on Monday.
Amie Holt Care Center resident Beverly Landrey joked that she was “born” on a horse. The horse lover enjoyed getting some one-on-one time with Chip on Monday. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

BUFFALO — A pair of valentines moseyed into the Amie Holt Care Center on Monday to share their love with residents and staff.

They are big on nuzzling and getting their winter coats stroked, chin rubs below the halters are also nice.

Chip and Tootsie Roll are miniature horses, and they energized the 29-resident facility with Valentine’s Day-inspired blinking hearts on their heads and necks, lights on their bodies and red ribbons on their tails. Wherever Tootsie Roll and Chip went, smiles from residents and staff followed as they made their rounds.

Sheridan veterinarian Candice Carden and her daughter Kamryn own Chip, and good friend Nicole Henry of Douglas brought Tootsie Roll, a sweet-and-salty partnership that was as treat for all tastes.

‘Brightens Their Day’

“The residents love the ponies, they love to interact with them, and it just brightens their day every time they come to visit,” said Lori Straub, activities director for the center.

Carden said having the miniature horses visit the nursing home started in Sheridan several years ago. The idea came from a day Kamryn, then a toddler, led Billy Bob —their family pony at the time — into the house.

“I thought, ‘Why can’t we just go take him to the nursing home?’” Carden said. She made a call, and the visits began.

About a year ago, a man brought a horse to her practice and mentioned he had heard about their visits to the Sheridan facility. He asked her to consider going to the Amie Holt center as well because his mom lives there.

Carden’s first visit was around the Fourth of July. Now, with Henry, they’ve since tried to visit around the holidays to give residents something to look forward to. Last summer, they dressed the horses for a Hawaiian luau at the facility.

As a precaution, the horses were fitted with “bun bags” to contain any little horse accidents that may happen. But for anyone who’s lived in Wyoming for any length of time, that’s just part of the Cowboy Way.

“We don’t want to make more mess, but sometimes we do, and the people are great about it,” Carden said. “They are really good with it.”

Carl Swedelius enjoys checking out the visitors to Amie Holt Care Center on Monday. He asked if Tootsie Roll and Chip were used as pack animals.
Carl Swedelius enjoys checking out the visitors to Amie Holt Care Center on Monday. He asked if Tootsie Roll and Chip were used as pack animals. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

Making Their Rounds

Once inside the two-story facility the horses and their handlers started making their rounds, room-to-room and everywhere in between.

“It’s fun because a lot of the people from here and in Sheridan are from ranches, so it is amazing the stories they will tell you,” Carden said.

Resident Beverly Landry sat outside of her room on a couch with family. She smiled as the horses walked down the hall and immediately wanted to pet them. A photo collage outside of her door shows her holding a colt at a ranch gate and another shows her astride a horse.

Landry jokes that she was “born” on a horse.

“They are so cute,” she said about Tootsie Roll and Chip. “They come in and see us.”

Another resident, Carl Swedelius, wears a cowboy hat and pushes his walker down the hall to get a look at the pair. He’s interested in how the horses are used.

“Do you pack them?” he asked.

He is told that Tootsie is a “rodeo horse” who helped train youngsters in Henry’s extended family, while Chip is not able to do a lot because of his small, injured hooves.

Another resident sees them and interjects, “The horses motivated me!”

Head Bumps

Still another resident, Donna Jacobs, had a conversation with the two equines: “Will you be my Valentine?”

She shared that the day did not begin well, but her visitors were making things better. She then wants to go head-to-head with the horses to show her love.

“It makes me feel better, now I can just give these guys a head and bump heads with them,” Jacobs said.

Formerly from Gillette, Judy Hein was in the facilities exercise room when the horses arrived. She took a break to pet them.

“They make you happy,” she said about the impact the tiny horses have on the center’s residents.

During the visit, staff lead the way to the second floor. The horses follow onto the elevator.

Upstairs, there is a breakthrough.

The mother of the man who initially asked Carden to visit the facility is willing to see the horses. During prior visits, she wasn’t exactly pleased to see horses in the halls.

The horses are led into her room, where she pets their noses, looking up as she lay on the side of her bed.

“She was blowing kisses,” Kamryn Carden said.

After nearly two hours of visits, Chip and Tootsie get a little tired and it’s time to head back to the first floor for a few more chin-scratches before heading off to Sheridan for a nursing home visit there.

Chip’s Recovery

Carden said Chip initially was brought to her practice with a request he be put down because of the damage to his small feet.

“And we asked them instead of putting him down if we could take him and get him better,” Carden said. “And we’ve got him to where he is a lot more comfortable, happy, and now we’re hoping we will have him for the rest of his life.”

Now Chip is not only happy, but so are all the seniors he visits. And Carden can’t think of anything better than making a Valentine’s Day season special.

“One of my favorite things in the world is come and do this,” she said. “It is so awesome to see how happy it makes people.”

Visits around this holiday are extra special, Carden said, because with the animals and residents, the overriding emotion they bring out of each other is love.

  • Resident Donna Jacobs presses her head against Chip. She asked the miniature horses: ‘Will you be my Valentine?”
    Resident Donna Jacobs presses her head against Chip. She asked the miniature horses: ‘Will you be my Valentine?” (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Bringing Valentine’s Day happiness to residents of the Amie Holt Care Center in Buffalo on Monday was the goal of Kamryn Carden, left, Nicole Henry, Tootsie Roll, Chip and Candice Carden.
    Bringing Valentine’s Day happiness to residents of the Amie Holt Care Center in Buffalo on Monday was the goal of Kamryn Carden, left, Nicole Henry, Tootsie Roll, Chip and Candice Carden. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Tootsie Roll and Chip head into the elevator at the Amie Holt Care Center in Buffalo to visit the residents on the second floor.
    Tootsie Roll and Chip head into the elevator at the Amie Holt Care Center in Buffalo to visit the residents on the second floor. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at dale@cowboystatedaily.com.

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