Corning Center Gets Its Own Mini Therapy Horse!

An adorable new friend visited our residents at Corning

- August 28, 2017

As featured in The Star Gazette

It started as a plan to rescue a miniature horse and give it to her granddaughter, but Cathy Fortier soon had other ideas.

Fortier, who lives in the Steuben County Town of Tuscarora, instead got inspired to turn the rescue into a miniature therapy horse — similar in concept to therapy dogs and other animals — and Tender Grace Miniature Horse Therapy was born.

On Thursday, residents at the Corning Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, formerly Founders Pavilion, got to see up close and personal just how calming and comforting a well-trained therapy horse can be.

"I love horses. I used to have a Shetland pony," said resident Donald Snyder, who gave 10-year-old Sarah a big hug when she stopped to see him. "It did help. I don't get to do anything, but having a horse here is pretty neat."

Fortier started the non-profit organization earlier this year and now has three miniature therapy horses, with another one coming next April.

"I was going to going to rescue one for my granddaughter, but my niece sent me a link to someone who does therapy with horses," Fortier said. "I knew this was my calling."

Laurie Towner, a resident at the Corning Center for



Fortier works full-time for Corning Inc. and so far, has only made visits to nursing homes and other facilities on weekends. She hopes to make it a full-time venture after she retires.

Fortier also plans to collaborate with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Sarah and at least one other horse will take part in the Walk for Wishes fundraiser Sept. 23 in Corning.

Fortier said watching nursing home residents, who often have few visitors, light up when Sarah and the other miniature horses come calling is all the reward she needs.

"Horses can get through to souls that people can't," she said. "People will sit in chairs and nurses will tell me they haven't smiled in a month. Sarah will get in their lap and they will kiss her. It's amazing how much love she can bring to these lonely souls."

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