An Inspired Fitness Partnership

December 11, 2023

This fall, Green Chimneys’ Recreation and Residential Life teams unveiled the Tom’s Trail Challenge—a health initiative designed to motivate residential students in a spirited walking competition. The challenge supports holistic health, residential community-building and, uniquely, a fitness plan for Tater Tot, a mini horse recently welcomed into the Green Chimneys equine herd.

How It Works

Each month, the residential unit with the most laps of Tom’s Trail Loop by students, staff, and animal companions wins a prize. For example, a special party at the pool or in the game room. A grand prize will be awarded at the end of the school year. Units reaching specific lap benchmarks receive additional rewards in recognition of their hard work. The challenge boasted an impressive 1,052 laps at the end of November—equivalent to over 736 miles!

Big Steps for Tater Tot

Tater Tot’s involvement in the challenge emphasizes the intersection of animal welfare and physical health. Tater Tot is 20 years old and carries a lot of excess weight. Consequently, this strains mini horse joints and feet, mirroring challenges faced by humans with similar conditions. Additionally, prior to coming to Green Chimneys, he wasn’t familiar with so many other species of animals and new people. For that reason, he was a little shy and nervous about being handled.

With daily interaction, Tater Tot started to trust and learn what it means to be a horse that works with people. Staff work closely with students—teaching them how to approach calmly and softly—checking their energy so that they don’t intimidate the horse as he continues to adjust. As a result, Tater Tot is learning how to make the first move—approaching caretakers and visitors instead of waiting for them to reach him. His improvement is a testament to the collaborative efforts of students and staff.

Following his initial health evaluations, Tater Tot joined the walking challenge. Soon after, the once reserved mini horse has blossomed into a sweet and engaging buddy. During his daily lap of Tom’s Trail, he even tries to outpace students! He now moves around his paddock more comfortably, and has been seen running and rolling and playing with the other mini horses.

Fitness By Example

Through Tater Tot’s newfound energy and confidence, students see the impact of introducing active routines into their lives. Additionally, his transformation illustrates the benefits of trying new things and positive interactions.

Like the Tom’s Trail Challenge, some of the most valuable activities at Green Chimneys come from cross-departmental partnerships. These initiatives build community and provide experiential learning opportunities for students through human-animal interactions and dedicated staff support. We can’t wait to see how far our students, and Tater Tot, go!

Green Chimneys is home to over 300 animals and birds, from the familiar to the exotic to the endangered. Explore the Sam and Myra Ross Farm & Wildlife Center and meet the animals who are also educators, therapists and friends to our school students! Meet the animals→