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Big Daddy, the mini horse, brings joy to nursing home patients

Alicia Blackwood's ranch, tucked away in Loomis, is home to her 26 therapy animals. But her 26-year-old miniature horse, Big Daddy, is the star.

LOOMIS, Calif. — Alicia Blackwood's ranch, tucked away in Loomis, California, is home to her 26 therapy animals. From miniature bunnies to a pygmy goat named Dora, there's no shortage of cute at Wild Heart Ranch.

But her 26-year-old miniature horse, Big Daddy, is the star.  

"It really all started with him. I started bringing him to my work," Blackwood explained. "That’s how I learned that he could tolerate the elevator and be in office buildings for an hour or two without having an accident."

Blackwood takes Big Daddy to nursing homes and other care facilities six times a month to comfort those in need of smiles.

Credit: Barbara Bingley
Blackwood visits a retirement care facility with Big Daddy and her two daughters.

"We love Big Daddy," said caregiver Saterria Ford during one of Big Daddy's recent visits. "He is so cute. And the residents just love him. He puts smile on everyone's face. I think he brings a sense of calmness and peace to us." 

While Blackwood said she loves to visit the elderlies' bedsides, she is most fulfilled when Big Daddy makes service people smile during their long days on the job.

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"I love visiting the nurses, because they're taking care of people all day," Blackwood explained. "Their joy is just as important."

Blackwood’s journey in helping others began with her own trauma. As a child, she was kidnapped and has lives with PTSD.

"With PTSD you have unsettled emotion," Blackwood explained. "So that's where it kind of started 3  I noticed that with animals, I felt nothing. I didn't feel any kind of anxiety."

Credit: Barbara Bingley
Alicia Blackwood takes Big Daddy for a trot at Wild Heart Ranch before heading to a retirement care facility.

Since starting her non-profit, Wild Heart Ranch, in 2015, Blackwood has offered reading days to kids at libraries, and hospital and ranch visits to the public.

She said the visits "create a special connection between animals and people for healing and rehabilitation."

"It fills my cup up so much," Blackwood explained. "Probably more than the people who he's visiting. That’s why we do this. It's awesome."

Follow the conversation on Facebook with Barbara Bingley.

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