Small Horse, Big Heart: Spadi

August 21, 2019

A 19-year career is a success by any stretch and when it has served to help children with special needs, it feels even more meaningful.

In 2000, Green Chimneys welcomed 3-year-old Spadi, one of two Icelandic horses donated by then First Lady Hilary Clinton. The pair had been a state gift from the children of Iceland to the children of the United States, and the White House chose Green Chimneys as the home for these horses.

As a member of the Green Chimneys Equine Program, Spadi has worked with numerous children, both those enrolled in the therapeutic day and residential school, and those enjoying pony rides at Green Chimneys’ many public events. His easy going temperament and reputation as a gentle yet playful horse has made him an excellent partner in therapeutic animal-assisted activities and farm education classes. As a lesson horse, Spadi has offered valuable opportunities for children to learn and grow in their own skills. He can be stubborn, making him a useful example to students who are a bit inflexible and need to build cooperation. Having moved from his native home, Spadi is a reminder to new and more tentative students that sometimes you have to start over. And Spadi always sought out a particular buddy to bond with, serving as a loyal friend to his barn mates.

The Impact of Learning From Each Other

Seventeen-year-old Tyler has enjoyed a special connection with Spadi, working with him regularly for the past several years. He describes Spadi as very calm but recalls him having bit of anxiety about getting too far from the horse barn. “We would take walks for exercise and he would begin neighing and whinnying as soon as we passed the outdoor riding ring,” explains Tyler. “I got him used to being away by taking weekly walks and gradually, in 4 or 5 weeks, we went as far as Tom’s Trail.” Tyler says Spadi taught him how to be patient and understanding of what others may need to be comfortable. “We both learned from each other.”

The Green Chimneys Equine Team continually assesses each and every horse to stay current on their fitness, ability to participate in animal-assisted activities, and overall quality of life. After many years of patiently working with the students of Green Chimneys, Spadi is retiring at Mitchell Farm (Salem, CT), a well known nonprofit facility that provides a safe and comfortable home for aging horses. Mitchell Farm is also generously providing a scholarship to fully support Spadi’s care in his new home.

Spadi’s life has been devoted to the children of Green Chimneys and Mitchell Farm is a wonderful opportunity to give him the next level of care that an older animal deserves; he will return to the peaceful pasture life that he was born into. “We hope that during his retirement Spadi will remember what it means to ‘just be a horse’ again,” expressed Mitchell Farm Founder/Executive Director Dee Doolittle. “We will help him find and make equine friends to bond with, while getting excellent care from his new human friends.”

Learn more about some of our special partners and what students can gain from them