At just around 34 inches tall, mini horses pack a lot of heart into their tiny frames. That’s what Sally Iwanski, one of the co-founders of Minis and Friends, learned about these peaceful animals. Minis and Friends is a non-profit organization that brings the love and tenderness of miniature horses to people in need.
Iwanski had been working the back end of another equine group in Lockhart and knew she had to bring the minis to Austin, where she lived and where she and several other mini owners kept their horses. After establishing Minis and Friends, they decided they wanted to work primarily with children; once they had narrowed it down they started to call different charities and people in the medical field.
The first question they always heard was “How big are they?” Iwanski would answer: “30 inches — they fit in my minivan, I can bring them by tomorrow.” They started off with 3-4 shelters they would visit regularly; today, they sometimes schedule up to three different visits in one day.
In 2007, Minis and Friends were comprised of four minis and three owners. They now have 22 minis, two mini donkeys, 10 owners and 47 hard working volunteers serving Round Rock, Pflugerville, Steiner Ranch, Dripping Springs, Wimberly, Bastrop and Austin. They have also branched out, reaching just about any and every organization they can, from those benefiting seniors and veterans, to abused youth, to children with cancer and youth and young adults in transition.
The minis, owners and volunteers must all pass through an intense safety course — the safety of the animals and the people they visit is the most important thing.
Minis and Friends are also passionate about doing all they can to support other non-profit organizations. “All non-profits are in dire straits right now. If bringing the horses will have people say, ‘Oh, the Minis and Friends are going to be there, we want to go,’ that’s a good thing,” says Iwanski. They attend walks, parades, and even help fundraise for other organizations. In early December, Minis and Friends helped raise $6,000 for Wheelers for the Wounded Order of the Purple Heart, going out and helping purchase toys for the 200 children of wounded veterans in Fort Hood.
The horses may be small but they have a large impact on everyone they meet. “It’s the trust. The unconditional love that the little horses display,” says Iwanski, citing what makes the minis the perfect visitor.
Intuition also plays a big role with the therapeutic animals. “If your horse takes you, let him go," says Iwanski. Somehow they just know where to go, where they’re really needed. There are countless testimonials that end with heart-warming smiles and tears of happiness, of finding hope where there was none and a friend in the most unlikely of places.
It’s inspiring to see the hardworking team behind Minis and Friends, an organization that not only reaches out to everyone in need but also to other non-profits in the community. Like most other non-profits their life force is through donations, please feel free to make a difference in someone's life and donate here.