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Mercy the Therapy Miniature Horse

Updated on April 18, 2012
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is a published author, freelance writer, and photographer. She also specializes in horses.

Mercy is a very special horse. She is small and not so perfect - she toes out and her teeth are slightly misaligned, both traits frowned upon in the Miniature Horse halter horse. She looks more like a Morgan, and Miniature Show Horses are supposed to look like tiny Arabians these days. But none of those superficial things matter to her owner and best friend, Denise Pullis

Baby Mercy

photo by Denise Pullis
photo by Denise Pullis

The Little Horse had 'Tude

Denise bought Mercy when she was just a one-month-old foal. The idea was to have a performance show horse. Mercy, on the other hand, was an independent thinking little foal. She knew being caught meant having to “do” stuff and she was smart enough not to follow her mama to the barn when Denise and her sons were there. But once Denise got her hands on Mercy and started working with her she found Mercy to be very trainable. Mercy, even with her little ‘tude learned quickly and retained what she learned.

Time went on and one day a friend of Denise’s, a volunteer with the local ambulance corps, asked Denise to bring Mercy to their open house. Mercy had learned a little repertoire of tricks – shaking hands, answering yes and no to questions with a shake of her head and giving kisses. Denise thought it would be fun to go, but she didn’t have a horse trailer. For three weeks she tried to find someone to haul Mercy to the event with no luck. Then someone suggested Denise let Mercy ride in her jeep Cherokee, outlining a training plan.

Mercy took to hopping into the car like a duck takes to water within the first week of training. And that is how she got to the ambulance corps party - Mercy and Denise in one car, husband and boys following behind in another.


Hey! Is That a Horse in that Car?

Photo courtesy of Dennis Pullis
Photo courtesy of Dennis Pullis

Mercy Visits School

photo courtesy Denise Pullis
photo courtesy Denise Pullis

Delta Society Pet Partner and More

That was just the beginning of trips for Mercy. She has competed in many horse shows and has won an impressive number of awards including being an American Miniature Horse Registry Triple Performance Hall of Fame recipient in three disciplines.

But, what makes Mercy really special is her work as a therapy horse. The Delta Society has certified Mercy as a Pet Partner. Delta Society identifies itself as a human services organization dedicated to improving people's health and well being through positive interactions with animals.

A therapy horse is different from a service animal. A service horse or dog helps humans with daily tasks, such as a guide animal helps the visually impaired get around safely. A therapy animal is part of a patient’s therapy program. An example of equine therapy can be something as simple as a patient brushing and grooming a horse to help regain the use of their hands and arms. Another example is animal assisted activities. That is what Mercy has done for the past fourteen years. She visits nursing homes, schools, libraries, and civic events. Just her presence makes people smile and feel good. If a patient is too sick to join the group Mercy visits them in their room. Sometimes she gives out kisses and nuzzles, or accepts love pats from those she visits. She performs some of her tricks for added delight.

Mercy has not won any public awards for her therapy work but Denise says, “Seeing a nursing home patient’s eyes light up when Mercy appears in the doorway of her room, or watching a child with cancer hug her around the neck, and watching Mercy handle all the attention is reward enough for me; or watching a staff member do a double take when they see Mercy on the elevator traveling between floors – those moments you cannot put a value on.”

Mercy also helps with fundraisers for The Humane Society at Lollypop Farm in Fairport, New York. She helped raise $205,000 most recently. After seeing Mercy on TV during the telethon Denise said people drove to the mall just to see “the little horse who was in the shopping mall.”

Mercy is also an artist. She paints pictures with her nose. Her paintings are sold to help raise funds for the humane societies in the greater Rochester area. She will appear at Lollypop Farm this month, April 25th, creating paintings while the people watch her at work.

Mercy has enjoyed fame because of her volunteer work and show record. She was a Celebrity Horse at the 2006 Equine Affaire in Massachusetts. She was stalled right next to two movie stars – “Rich in Dallas” who played the part of Seabiscuit in the movie of that same name, and “Blanco” who was Shadowfax in two of the Lord of the Rings movies. Mercy got her invitation because of her appearance on Animal Planet and in two books, Straight From the Heart II and The Book of Miniature Horses.

Mercy is listed with several animal talent agencies and is hopefully waiting for “the call” to Hollywood. She is a favorite in parades. People step right off the sidewalks to come pet her as she goes by. Another dream of Mercy and Denise is to be in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Speaking of dreams, Denise has embarked on a campaign to have Mercy become a Breyer Horse. They have turned down her first proposal, but Denise is not giving up. Denise says, “I will be writing them again with an update.”

But all dreams aside, it is the calls to the community that mean the most to Denise. She says, “I have been blessed with a remarkable horse and she should be shared with others so they can see the beauty and intelligence all equines possess.”


Original by Mercy

Photo courtesy of Denise Pullis
Photo courtesy of Denise Pullis

Read More About Mercy in The Book of Miniature Horses


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    • profile image

      Mercysmom 7 years ago

      Mercy does not like to poop in public for some reason - she will let me know if she has to go and she prefers the privacy of her trailer - she is 16 now and she has always been like that. Her daughter Constellation and her sire Rudy are the same way...

    • billips profile image

      billips 8 years ago from Central Texas

      What a dear little horse - she must bring a lot of joy wherever she goes - B.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 8 years ago from Central North Carolina

      In the chapter, "Minis in Service" of my book, The Book of Miniature Horses, my interview with the trainer of a guide horse named Panda talks about potty training. It can be done, but it is not easy;o) Panda rings a bell to let her owner know its time for her to go outside.

    • profile image

      Jowana 8 years ago

      I have just adopted a miniature horse that I would like to use for therapy. What do you do about "potty" issues.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Great story.

      I had a friend who had a Shetland pony for years which they took to visit children's hospitals. Misty would ride in their VW van.