The horses that a Poolesville horse ambulance was expected to carry to Connecticut are small, but their mission is a huge one: help heal the hearts of the children affected by the Sandy Hook shooting last month.
Nicole Ehrentraut, a resident of Barnesville, runs Da Vinci Equine Emergency Transport, based in Poolesville. Her company was asked to transport three horses from Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, a Florida-based nonprofit that visits hospitals, assisted living programs, Alzheimer’s patients and foster children, among others, to the town of Newtown. They were expected to leave Saturday, Dec. 29, and reach the town on Dec. 30, she said.
“I thought it was a phenomenal idea to donate our services and be a part of something like that,” Ehrentraut told The Gazette on Friday.
She said she first heard of Gentle Carousel’s plan to visit Newtown by way of a Facebook posting.
“I’m a parent as well and that really affected me,” she said of the shootings.
The horses were expected to be driven part of the way from Florida by another transport company, and Ehrentraut was to pick them up on Dec. 30 in Pennsylvania, she said. Her equine ambulance will have special heaters and bedding for the miniature horses, which won’t be acclimated to the New England cold, she said.
From there, Da Vinci Equine Emergency Transport was expected to take the horses the rest of the way to Connecticut and then to each of their “appointments.”
“In my previous business I taught horsemanship to traumatized women and saw healing that can happen having horses around," she said.
“Just working with animals can bring healing and peace.”
The entire trip was expected to take about a week, she said, and was an all-volunteer effort.
Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, Education Director at Gentle Carousel, said the organization was contacted in late December ago about bringing their horses to Connecticut.
Gentle Carousel got several calls all from families in Newtown, she said, especially about Magic, one of the carousel’s famous miniature horses, which Time Magazine named one of the top ten most heroic animals of all time in March 2011. The magazine cited an example of Magic’s magic when a visit to an assisted living facility prompted a woman who hadn’t spoken in three years —to anyone — to say, "Isn't she beautiful?" after seeing the horse.
“One family said they wanted their kids to come home from school talking about minis, not monsters," Garcia-Bengochea said of the calls.
The organization had been finishing up its work for the year in Florida, and hadn’t been expecting a big trip.
“There are some calls you can’t say no to,” she said of the request to head up to Connecticut.
Garcia-Bengochea said school children from around the globe, from places like Brazil, France and South Africa, have sent donations to the group to help fund the trip up north, which she estimated could cost about $10,000.
“We said yes without knowing how we would do it. We’re still putting together financing for all of it,” she said.