Faith San Severino and Adam Smith were inspired to start Faithful Friends (https://faithfulfriendsinsandiego.com) where they train and sell mini horses for therapy, mobility, service, and love. Over a decade ago, Faith decided she wanted to work with horses and volunteer as a pet therapist at senior centers for veterans and Alzheimer’s patients. This is where she obtained the idea of buying and training miniature horses as therapy animals. Now she’s a nationally certified trainer and works with buyers from all over the country.
Faith noted, “I came from Vancouver Canada. I used to ride and jump horses there. I moved to California and found out that horses are dirt cheap compared to Vancouver. I immediately bought a riding horse. Somewhere after that I bought a miniature horse, saw it was lonely, bought another one, and started to train them for others. I trained them as therapy animals and went with them to hospitals. Now, ten years later, we are the number one trainer in the nation. I buy them, train them, certify them, and sell them. If someone was to buy one the price range is $4,000 to $20,000 for social certification.”
She has worked with autistic children, the elderly, and veterans. They also do a lot of work with people who are terrified of horses. Regardless of who they work with it is the same kind of training.
Besides training, Faithful Friends now also breeds miniature horses. “I never did breed horses before. Because of the high gas prices, it costs $3,000 to haul a horse so we decided to breed. The process has the mother pregnant for eleven months. The infant horse stays with the mother for six months and then the training begins and lasts for another six months. Right now, it is a slow go. The cost for caring has gone up a lot because of inflation. Hay has gone up from $18 to $27 and workers want more money. Water is expensive as well as the cost of gas.”
“When we breed, we make sure the temperament of the horse is mellow, good-minded, quiet, kind, and loves people. They do not act crazy, fly around, and are full of energy. We want them to be focused and desensitized. A therapy horse are trained not to bite. I once had a person who brought her horse to be certified as a therapy horse. I went to grab the halter and he bit me, so I failed him.”
There are even seeing- eye therapy horses, which can cost $100,000. The organization pays for the training, and they are usually non-profits. In fact, miniature horses are growing in numbers as service animals in America. They live longer than service dogs (up to 35 years), are non-allergenic, and because of their larger size, blind people who need to lean on their service animal for support, can lean on them.
What is the future for Faith? “With the water shortage here in Southern California we are looking to move to Central California or lower Oregon. We want to move where there are lakes. I also signed a deal to write children’s books. It will be a series about Peabody, the smallest horse in the world. I want a place where I can sit, relax, and write about Peabody, the mini-horse adventures.”
Did Peabody really exist? “Yes. Peabody was born a dwarf and was so small he could not reach his mother’s udder, standing 16 1/2 inches tall. A dwarf has crooked legs, a big forehead, and a big tummy. The lady that bred him was thinking of putting him down. I drove across country to rescue him. It was like he was my child, following me everywhere. Peabody was a house-horse. He would slap my leg when he was hungry. When we put him on social media, he got 1 billion hits around the world. Unfortunately, he died at 4 ½ months. We do not know why he was taken so early. Hopefully, the books will keep him alive forever.”
There are many examples of how the therapy horses have impacted people’s lives. “I decided to write about Peabody because of the difference he made. I had a woman who told me she was handicapped, but after seeing the video she got out of bed and went shopping. Someone else who had depression for years told me after watching the video they were filled with happiness. I once took another therapy horse to veteran in a wheelchair. Suddenly, my little horse put their head in his lap, and the veteran started to cry. He told me he cried because he thought he would never be able to touch a horse again.”
Faith wants readers to know, “Being with these horses is what I call ‘mini-Heaven.’ They bring joy instantly. Never short-change your dreams. Anyone can make a difference and bring joy. Never give up!”