A Horse of Course: Filling a Niche of Need by Don Blascak

For over eight years, Nancie Roahrig has been providing therapeutic support to children and adults with a variety of special needs. While helping people with special needs isn’t unique, the tools of Roahrig’s trade are unique. Her tools include a Percheron, a Clydesdale, an Arabian and two Shetland ponies. What these horses do is both surprising and a blessing to many.

Nancie’s non-profit organization is called “Step Up to TLC” and the TLC part means Therapeutic Loving Caballos. The mission focuses on bringing smiles, fostering therapeutic healing, both emotionally and physically, and building self-confidence and social skills through people’s interaction with horses. Although her organization is not faith-based, Nancie firmly believes that the service she offers is “God blessed”.

The larger animals are draft horses and often pull carriages and wagons at a variety of events. The ponies offer pony rides. These activities help provide funds to sustain the real life work of the animals at schools, assisted living homes, pediatric wards and clinics where healing through touch and love is practiced.

The animals seem to know their purpose. Nancie tells of a visit to Handmaker Assisted Living where the Clydesdale entered the lobby, much to the delight of the client guests. In another instance Mosey, one of the Shetlands, visited a former cowboy in Hospice care who had made a final request to see a horse again before he passed away. Mosey provided the answer to that wish right in the cowboy’s room.

Nancie has experienced times when the interaction of child or adult to horse has brought out great emotions, but she states that, too, is a part of healing. One of the most spectacular interactions she has observed was between one of the ponies and a child with autism. At first there was little awareness and then, with a nudge from the pony, an invisible veil was lifted. There was recognition and the passing of affection between horse and child as the child embraced the pony.

Nancie asks for little as she foresees growth in her programs and activities. She could use some horse panels, misters, fans and some lumber to build armadas for shade for the animals. She is funded by private donations, foundations and grants and the “suggested donations” she collects from her carriage rides, pony rides and wagon trips. For more information or bookings, please contact Nancie at 400-7426.