Faith San Severino invested the entirety of her savings in training miniature horses as therapy animals for seniors. The goal was noble, but modest. San Severino’s plan was specific to her community. But Peabody, one of her most charismatic mini horses, was thinking much bigger.
Faith’s First Mini Horse
It was while volunteering at a senior care facility in San Diego that San Severino’s idea sparked. She had witnessed firsthand the joy that therapy dogs brought to the seniors with whom she worked, and wondered, as a long-time horse lover, if mini horses might do the same.
Her friends thought she was crazy. Mini horses, after all, are not dogs. Where would she find them? How would she house them? And what would it take to train them to gently interact with the seniors? Despite all of the doubts — including her own — San Severino felt a strong stirring in her heart at the idea of owning and training tiny horses. Certain of her plan, she reached out to a friend who was a horse breeder.
Soon, she was introduced to a 26-inch-tall cream mini that she named Baby Sky. After a little training and buying a van to transport Sky, San Severino asked the director of the senior facility if they could come visit.
Watching the residents’ faces light up as Baby Sky clopped around was all the evidence she needed, and she set out to get more mini horses and train them to become certified therapy animals. Thus was born “Faithful Friends.’
Little Horses, Big Smiles
With support from her husband, Adam, San Severino took a leap of faith, and invested her savings to lease a corral at a public barn, adding more mini horses to her stable. Once her minis were trained and certified, she called other local senior centers to schedule visits.
“What kind of dog is that?” one Alzheimer’s patient asked as she looked down at Baby Sky. When San Severino explained that it was a mini horse, the woman beamed.
Eager to expand, San Severino moved to a home with several acres on the property and began looking for more mini horses to train. Her friend, a horse-breeder, agreed to sell some of her low-energy minis that couldn’t be groomed for horse shows. Once they turned six months old and were able to be away from their mothers, San Severino began training them, until they were a year old and could become certified.
As word spread, requests for visits grew. Soon, San Severino and her growing stable of mini heart-warmers was bringing hope to people all over the country.
The Mini Horses Go Viral
Even with the increased awareness and expansion, San Severino wished she could reach more people. She began posting videos of her horses on TikTok and gained a big following almost instantly. Peabody, a 16-inch-tall mini with personality plus, was a follower favorite. . Before she knew it, the videos had gone viral, garnering more than 900,000 followers.
“I have polio and I can hardly walk. But when I saw this tiny horse with crooked legs, I thought, If he can do it, I can do it too,” one follower shared.
“I suffer from depression and I take medication. But when I see Peabody, I can’t help but smile,” wrote another.
Sadly, Peabody died in 2021, but his legacy lives on through the rest of San Severino’s fourhoofed faithful friends. “Being with these horses is what I call ‘mini Heaven.’ They bring joy instantly,” she says. To date, she’s trained over 200 mini horses. “Peabody was so special because he was a therapy horse for the whole world. Never short-change your dreams. Anyone can make a difference and bring joy — never give up!”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.