The horses are mini, but the smiles are extra large at Barrington Campus Life Center.
"It was immediately stress melting away," said Wendy Connolly, a parent, and participant in a new program geared toward adults.
Mane in Heaven, a non-profit organization that provides animal-assisted activity and therapy visits free of charge to children with disabilities, launched "Ponies for Peace" on Tuesday.
The free event offers adult time with miniature horses and mindful meditation.
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"How can you not feel better when you look at these guys," said Dina Morgan, the president at Mane in Heaven.
"This is the very first one we’ve done. We’re hoping to do it on a monthly basis and really increase our outreach so we can help those parents, help adults. Everyone seems to be stressed now. They say the next pandemic is really mental health."
According to the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide.
"Since the pandemic, it’s changed everything. It's changed the way we work, the way we play, the way we do everything, the way we go to school," said Morgan.
Animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Organizers at Mane say their goal is to promote community, confidence and calm.
"If we can make the parents more resilient, and stronger, they’re going to help their family, they’re going to help their kids," said Morgan.
"That’s what the minis do, they spread joy and happiness to everyone," said Ellen Peter, another program participant.
For more information on the free adult programs and about Mane in Heaven, find the group on social media or click here.