Smiling on the Inside :)

Dillon our pony and Elliott, Jill Bemis’ therapy dog and friend.

Our surprise visit on Thursday June 27, 2012 brought a lot of smiles on the inside and out. Tucson Medical Center Pediatrics, Square and Compass Children’s Clinic and Peppis House (hospice) always welcomes us with open arms no matter what day or time it is.
Dillon gave his usual saddle rides while Sir Snicker was led by many children who had never walked a horse before.
It felt like a real dog and pony show at the Clinic. Our two boys shared the spot light and attention with a couple of therapy dogs, Elliott and Molly, and believe me there were plenty of smiles to go around.

Peppis House started with a smorgasbord of apples, watermelon, grapes, a special staff and three children. The children were new to feeding and petting horses. Although they were willing to learn and kept feeding after the first couple of treats their little faces showed no emotion. At first I wasn’t sure if they were enjoying themselves but after observing them for a few more moments I believed their actions spoke for them selves. The smiles had to be on the inside—for sure!
In our last room at Peppis House our team George Roach, Sir Snickers, Tonja Mize, Dillon and myself took a step back in time. We heard about a young couple who at the age of 16 and 18 married. Not because they had to but because they wanted to. They were in love. A love that carried them through 63 years. He talked about her life as he stroked her face. He smiled and said I like to talk about my honey, can you tell? He thanked us for bringing in the horses. He said she had horses of her own when she was young. He felt she was very aware of Dillon and Snickers’ presence and although we couldn’t see it, he assured us that she was smiling on the inside:)

Where’s Sir Snickers?



The question rang through the hall at Diamond Children’s Hospital on Monday June 25, 2012.   Buddy stepped up and into Sir Snickers sneakers and with his Darth Vader costume he road the elevator for his first time in search of his Princess Leas’, Luke Skywalkers’ and Smiles.   

Woke up and smiled at Buddy-ah!



Nancie, did you grow up with horses?

Nancie, did you grow up with horses? No, I have always loved them and as a young girl I was fortunate to have the opportunities to go to Pantano Stables with my girlfriends for fun trail rides. But I grew up in the city and the city life I led. After I married and had children we were able to find some property out in Vail, AZ. My daughter wanted a horse. After a few years my little girl grew up and learned to drive and found boys. I was left with the horse which is where all this began. I learned to drive a team of big grey Percherons. After that I was hooked. I fell in love with driving and the draft horse breed. I decided to start a carriage company of my own. In 1997 I purchased a Clydesdale from Anheuser-Busch. Lenny was 5 years old. He was as kind and gentle as he was strong. He pulled the carriage that my husband built for many weddings and pulled our wagon in many of the Tucson Rodeo and Marana Parades. Lenny was truly a “Gentle Giant.”
My girlfriend had lost her teen daughter a few years earlier to cancer. She told me how they lived in the hospitals sometimes weeks, months, and then there was the year with multiple surgeries and chemotherapy treatments. She shared how much of a horse lover her daughter was and if a horse had come to visit her in the hospital while she was there it would of given her some normalcy to her days, a better quality of life and a lot of happy memories for her family to look back on. With that information in mind I called the childlife specialists at both TMC Pediatrics and UMC Pediatrics and told them what I had to offer. They welcomed us with open arms. They knew how animals enrich the lives of others. So in 1998 I began with one saddle, one ladder and one very loving 2000 lb Clydesdale horse named Lenny. (hence his horseshoe in the logo)
Over the years my journey has been amazing. The little and big miracles I have witnessed. My herd has grown to help fit the need of the visits that we make and the visits have grown because of the need. I formed a Non Profit in 2005 because all of my profits brought in from the weddings went back into the gas tank to Travel the Miles to bring Smiles. Over the years I have been blessed with the help of lot of volunteers who are angels in themselves. Supporting the mission of Step Up Into T.L.C. and sharing my horses. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that make a difference!

Ribbon to Share

Ribbons to share: Dillon and I came for a special visit. A young teen so excited to see Dillon again. She greeted him with a hug and began grooming him. Talking to him the whole time. She asked me if she could help get him ready for his birthday party that he was going to go to next. She got some scissors and a ribbon of hers and asked if I could braid his tail and use her ribbons…”I know the little birthday girl will love it.”
We worked together, talked about horses and laughed at some of the silly antics that Dillon was doing. She asked me if I liked this place she was staying at. She told me that her Mom said it was a nice place. I assured her that it was. She was getting the best of care from people who cared about her and that she had a nice room with a patio. And best of all they allowed horses and ponies to visit. She smiled and said “your right, it is a nice place.” As we were leaving the hospice unit, she hugged Dillon and told me to tell the birthday girl that she hopes she likes her ribbons.
The first thing the little girls at the birthday party saw were the braids and ribbons in Dillon’s mane and tail. Squeals of OMG- Dillon is just the prettiest pony EVER! I will have to call hospice and let our young teen know just how much her ribbons were enjoyed.

These Sneakers were Made for Walking! December 11, 2008 by Nancie Roahrig

Snickers was on a mission. To accomplish this he had to prepare by taking safety measures onto his own hooves. I was in charge of putting on his new black and white, tie in the front sneakers. After placing them on and checking to see if our two volunteers had the clean up equipment & camera, Snickers was ready to walk his sneakers into University Medical Center and take the elevator to the 6Th floor. The elevator was not his favorite part of the journey but it was a necessity. It was the only way he could see the children and create the smiles.

His first visit was a little 7 month old who had spent her entire life in the hospital. Tubes and lines attached to her little body didn’t stop the RN and her Mom from picking her up and placing her on the back of Snickers. Her first pony ride…A cherished memory for her Mom…Snickers went into all three Pediatric wings and saw over 30 children that day. Riding the elevator several times from the 6th to the 3rd and back down to the 1st floor. He was a trooper! Walking the hallways he would continually throw his hind right shoe. After several attempts of putting it back on we decided, with the advise from Anne, our volunteer to walk him slow, just to be on the safe side. We didn’t want Snickers to go slip sliding away—

Snickers fell asleep at bedsides as he felt the loving hands upon him from the patients and their family members. He saw age groups from infant (more pet therapy for the parents) to 20 year old young adults. He helped them all to forget for just a moment where they were and why they were there. He helped bring smiles and comfort. Conversation and laughter. Healing movements and the gift of a simple touch from a soft nose.

Those sneakers were made for walking and that’s just what they did–that day those sneakers just walked into the hearts of all those who witnessed Snickers and his volunteers in University Medical Center. Mission Accomplished!  P.S. Two hours inside and we never had to use the clean up equipment-whew!

A peaceful morning! Our normal Wednesday visit not so normal by Nancie Roahrig

Mosey full filled his mission yesterday morning with a peaceful presence….. We began early at TMC Pediatrics. The little patients came out into the sunshine to meet Mr. Mosey. One little girl rode and another little boy was quite content soaking up the sunshine and petting this black and white furry friend. His parents had said they had been stuck inside for the past four days since he had been admitted. It felt good to be outside and to see their son smiling again. Our next stop was TMCs Hospice. The RNs and Administration staff invite Mosey to come right on inside. Mosey loves going inside……between the AC and the attention, he’s a happy pony. This morning we went into ten different rooms with ten different patients all with ten different stories. Our quiet and loving little guy would place his muzzle on their beds or pillows and fall asleep while being caressed and hearing how they too had horses or just loved animals.  We walked into one room where a woman was having difficulties with comfort. Her family members were trying to calm her and with a tired and frustrated look they asked if we could help. Mosey and I went beside her bed. Mosey placed his head next to her body and I picked up her hand and began gently stroking Mosey’s face. With calming, quiet words and the softness of Mosey this woman began to find some peace. Her body began to relax, her eyes closed and she drifted into sleep. Her family, exhausted looked relieved. They now felt that their loved one was quiet and comfortable and this gave them permission for them to go home. Mosey and I met a very special young woman who had lost all mobility of her body. Although trapped in her body and diagnosed with a terminal illness she had such a kind personality and witty sense of humor. She was so pleased to see and meet Mosey. She had done gymkhana when her body was healthy. She loved horses. She asked if I could pick her hand up and place it on Mosey. Mosey placed his nose on her pillow next to her arm. I picked up her hand and her fingers wiggled threw his mane and fur. She then asked if I could bring her hand up to her nose so that she could smell Mosey. Once a horse lover always a horse lover–that smell–awe!!! She asked if I could parade Mosey around the room so that she could see him move and his coloring. After our session, as we were leaving I noticed a smudge from Moseys’ nose on her pillow. I apologized and she laughed and said—“Horse boogies! Now, that will be a conversation for everyone who comes to visit me, thanks Mosey!”

Our last room we were intercepted by the family. With tears in their eyes they said If only you would of been here ten minutes ago. She loved animals and horses but she has passed. I looked at them and said, her spirit is still here may we go in anyway, just for a moment? With a sense of gratitude they said “Of coarse” The older brother warned me that his younger brother was in the room and that he was very angry. Mosey and I walked in. Mosey placed his muzzle on her body and closed his eyes. The brother began to tell us about his sister, laughing and crying, he shared memories. The other brother and family members came in and we all stood there. The tension between the brothers seem to be placed aside as they watched Mosey and talked. Bringing a sense of peace into the room on all levels. Mosey and I couldn’t forget our visit to The Children’s Clinic and we are glad we didn’t. We had several children ride but we found out that our mission that day was to help bring warm fuzzies to the employees. A stressful morning with new changes. And you know how we all love change! So they came out one by one. Faces and bodies, their smiles on the edge……….They pet, talked and loved this little pony, who’s unconditional love and presence was all they needed. A shot of Mosey helped the pressures of change a little more bearable.

Thanks to all of you for your support and in helping us continue to travel the miles for smiles…

Many Blessings, Nancie Roahrig

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.