Meet the Herd
The High & Mighty Herd is truly the backbone of our organization. Without our equine coworkers, it would be impossible to provide our participants with the incredible benefits they receive each time they visit the farm. If you would like to lend a hand in supporting our horses, consider becoming a Horse Sponsor! To learn more about our Horse Sponsor Program, click here.
In May of 2018, Cooper joined the High & Mighty herd after retiring from his career as an eventing horse. He is free leased to our program by his owner (and our Development Director!) Dianne Ortmann. As an eventing horse, Cooper was challenged in the sports of dressage, show jumping and cross country jumping. Through these challenges, Cooper gained the skills of strength, balance and patience; all of which serve him well in his current role as a therapy horse. In program, Cooper enjoys trail riding, patterns and games. Cooper is also an excellent free lunging horse. With his shiny black coat, four white stockings, white facial markings and Spanish Mustang heritage, he makes quite the statement when strutting his stuff in the round pen! During the summer, you may see Cooper in a blanket that covers his whole body from neck to tail. This is because he is highly allergic to bug bites. His blanket is specially designed to keep him protected from pesky insects but also cool in the summer heat. A fun fact about Cooper is that his favorite treat is a clementine. He eats them whole—skin and all!
Dancing on Ice (Icey)
Dancing on Ice, otherwise known as Icey, has joined an elite group of girls that can claim they have been part of the High & Mighty Herd! She joined us in March of 2020 with her Uncle, Mr. D. Icey is also free leased to us by her owner, Elizabeth Tarbell and just like Mr. D she has a lot of experience with visiting schools, nursing homes and veterans hospitals. Icey proudly displays the dished face and wide eyes of her Arabian-style Miniature Horse breeding, although you may have to move her long hair out of the way to see them clearly! In her free time, Icey enjoys investigating new things (especially empty buckets for any treats that were left behind!), engaging in creative play with the bigger horses (even Shorty!) and generally causing mischief with Mr. D. We are so happy to have Icey as part of our herd.
Mr. Debonaire (Mr. D)
Having joined us in March of 2020, Mr Debonaire—or Mr. D—is one of the newest members of the High & Mighty Herd. Both he and his niece Icey are Arabian-style miniature horses. This means that their features resemble that of Arabian horses— delicate dished faces and wide intelligent eyes. He has been free leased to our program by his owner, Elizabeth Tarbell. Before coming to High & Mighty, Mr. D spent a great deal of time traveling to veterans hospitals, nursing homes and schools. This makes him the ideal candidate to join our Miniature Horse Outreach. Elizabeth tells us that when he is not busy traveling, he also enjoys playing with the bigger horses, being groomed and getting attention. We are so excited to have Mr. D as part of our team and can’t wait to see his personality blossom through visits both on and off the farm.
We welcomed Diego to the herd in August of 2018 as a donation from his former owner (and current volunteer!) Vicky Cooper. It didn’t take long for him to earn the affection of many of our participants. Many are initially drawn to Diego because of his unique coloring. When first meeting him, you might think that he is a whire horse, but on closer inspection you will see that his coat is actually a cream color and his mane and tail have hints of red. His coloring is called a Perlino and is the result of a genetic dilution of the Chestnut coat color. This dilution is also what gives Diego his stunning light blue eyes. Because his eyes are so light in color, they are very sensitive to the sun. You will often see Diego wearing a fly mask when he is outside as a form of sunglasses to protect his eyes. While his coloring certainly is special, he really wins people over with his personality. Diego is kind, gentle, easy-going and can be very entertaining in his classes! Whether he is taking a nap while waiting for his next rider, trying to follow his instructor around the arena or attempting to steal cones or other objects when no one is looking; he always keeps everyone smiling.
Handsome Jack Gray (Jack)
Handsome Jack Grey, known as Jack around the farm, was born in Texas and is a 16 hand registered Thoroughbred. As a youngster, Jack ran in five races and won a total of $850! While this may seem like a lot, it wasn’t enough to earn him a career as a racehorse. In 2002, at the age of four, Jack was purchased by Laura as a riding horse for her son. It soon became clear that riding wasn’t going to be his long term career either. Jack was diagnosed with kissing spine, a chronic condition that causes back pain when weight is added to the back. Because of this, Jack retired from riding in 2010 and began his career as an unmounted therapy horse. This is when he truly joined the High & Mighty program herd. Jack truly loves to participate in our ground program activities. Some of Jack’s favorite unmounted activities include grooming, being painted by campers, and reliving his racing days in the outdoor arena for the thrill of onlookers. Jack is currently being taught to longline by his adoptive owner and our staff member, Cindy Smith. We are looking forward to adding this skill to his unmounted program work!
Nautical Mile (Nemo)
Nautical Mile, better known in the barn as Nemo, came to High & Mighty in February of 2017 and was donated by Jack and Sam Couch. He is a Haflinger and true to his breed sports the traditional brown body with a thick blonde mane and tail. Haflingers are known for several distinctive breed characteristics, one of which is their coloring. True to his breed, Nemo sports the traditional brown body and a thick, blonde mane and tail. Nemo’s mane is so thick, in fact, that it falls on both sides of his neck! The build of a Haflinger allows their movements to be smooth and comfortable which make them a pleasure to ride and a popular choice for therapy horses! Before coming to High & Mighty, Nemo was trained in dressage which helped him to develop the skills of balance, precision and focus. We have found that Nemo is also naturally clever and curious. Because of this he excels in program activities involving games, obstacle courses or any other tasks that present him with a challenge to overcome. One of his favorite things to do in lessons is play soccer with our big ball; not only will he push it with his nose, but he will kick it too!
Rocket Rexio (Shorty)
Even if you spend a lot of time around the barn, it is unlikely that you will hear the name Rocket Rexio. That’s because those who know Rocket Rexio well just call him Shorty. Despite his name, Shorty is actually the biggest member of the High & Mighty herd. As a registered American Spotted Draft, he weighs in at about 1800 pounds and measures 17.2 hands—that means his back is about six feet high! Shorty was donated to our program in 2014 by Gail Newman and Peter Greenwald of Williamstown, MA. While Shorty may be large in size, he sometimes needs to borrow bravery from the other herd members. He prefers to stay close to the barn unless he is with his faithful friend Jack. His therapy horse career started off strong and Shorty was a favorite mount for many of our students, but due to some hoof issues Shorty has spent the last few years in our Unmounted Program. He loves being groomed and the more people the better because he is so huge! Recently he has been getting back to work under saddle with Laura and we are hopeful that he may be able to return to program soon. There is even talk of training Shorty to be a driving horse!
In spring of 2014, High & Mighty was pleased to accept Roustabout as a donation from Scott & Cindy Kanouse of Ghent, NY. Roustabout was the perfect addition to the herd because he is a Miniature Horse, which means he is about the size of a large dog! At the time of his arrival, High & Mighty was just starting to think about planning off-the-farm visits to schools, libraries and nursing homes. Roustabout’s size and overall loving personality made him a perfect fit for these programs—then and now! When he is not traveling off the farm, Roustabout enjoys obstacle courses, trail walks and visiting with our senior program. He is also trained in both long-lining and carriage driving, skills that are useful for our unmounted and camp programs. Roustabout has another very special trait, the dark brown markings that cover his ears designate him as a medicine hat paint. Horses with these markings are cherished by the Native Americans for the spiritual protective powers. This is just one of the many reasons that we cherish Roustabout at High & Mighty.
As the first mare to join the High & Mighty herd in 2014, Sonya had a lot to prove. She is free leased to High & Mighty by her owner Kay Konove and throughout her years in our program, she has certainly proven herself as a therapy horse. Sonya is a Noregian Fjord, which is where she gets her interesting looks. They are known for their contrasting colors, short manes and dark stripes down their backs. Sonya also has another marking common in some Fjords—black zebra stripes on her legs! Be sure to check them out! Her sweet temperament and laid back personality make Sonya a great choice for our first time students. She also has a great deal of knowledge and can sense just when and how to test someone, which makes her ideal for all levels of horse enthusiasts. With her impeccable ground manners, strong work ethic, dependability and confidence; Sonya has earned a special place in many hearts. Sonya has participated in all aspects of our program, including; riding, driving, unmounted activities and camps. These days in program, Sonya enjoys long grooming sessions, summer trail rides and learning new games. While Sonya very much enjoys her job as a therapy horse, we believe her true calling is competing in (and winning!) Carriage Driving Cones Course classes. To this day, whether she is hitched up to the carriage or under saddle, Sonya’s competitive nature comes out when she sees a set of cones!
Steal My Heart (Oliver)
With a name like Steal My Heart he must be adorable! And Oliver, as we call him, absolutely fits that description. With his gentle eyes, fuzzy ears and smaller stature; Oliver has stolen many a heart throughout his years at High & Mighty. He was purchased by Laura in 1999 to be trained as a driving pony and has been leased to High & Mighty as a program horse since 2011. Before becoming a therapy horse, Oliver learned to be a successful carriage driving pony and also competed in Hunter Jumper events. While his driving skills have gotten a little rusty over the past few years, Oliver still loves his job in our riding program and teaches our participants many valuable lessons. He is naturally playful and often tests his riders skills, encouraging them to learn how to communicate with him effectively. Some of Oliver’s favorite pastimes include; dressing in costume for events, playing games with his participants, counting with his front feet when he is bored and smiling for his volunteers before he puts his bridle on. You may be wondering what breed Oliver is, and if you come up with one feel free to let us know! We call him our ‘Heinz 57’ which just means that he is a mix of many breeds. Whatever his breeding may be, it created a clever, spunky, mischievous and overall loving pony.
Stroke of Luck (Lucky)
Stroke of Luck, or Lucky, joined the High & Mighty family in 1999. From the moment he came to the farm, he has lived up to his name. His story is certainly one of luck. When he arrived, Lucky was quite sick. So sick, in fact, that Laura was worried about purchasing him in the first place. But her daughter Meryl has fallen in love with him and insisted that he was the one. Perhaps it was his strong connection with Meryl or his Medicine Hat Paint powers that gave him the strength to recover, but recover he did, and became a wonderful riding companion to Meryl for many years. In 2011, Lucky joined the High & Mighty herd as a program horse. He is called a Medicine Hat Paint because of the dark marking that covers both his ears. According to Native American tradition, this means that he has special powers of protection. He has lived up to this reputation and takes excellent care of his riders. Lucky enjoys trail riding, trotting ground poles and being challenged in his lessons. Although he is not an easy horse to understand, this quality allows him to be an excellent teacher. Throughout the years Lucky has participated in our program off and on, while also spending some time in Syracuse with Meryl. We are happy to have him back in our program for the foreseeable future!
Tillett’s Thom (Thomas)
Tillett’s Thom, otherwise known as Thomas, was the first Norwegian Fjord to join the High & Mighty Herd in 2012. Not only are Fjords known for their distinctive looks, but they are also known for their smooth gaits, unique personalities and their strength in relation to their size. These traits allow Fjords to excel as riding, driving and endurance horses. Thomas has a crucial job at High & Mighty as the cornerstone of our driving program. He pulls both our regular and wheelchair adapted carts which allow horse lovers of all ages and abilities to participate in an equine activity. While Thomas has grown to enjoy our riding program too, the driving program is where his natural abilities truly shine. Thomas is known for his strong-willed personality which makes him an excellent teacher of courage, determination, and leadership. He helps to teach these skill sets to our staff, volunteers and participants on the ground, in the saddle and in the carriage. We also like to say that Thomas is our go-to teacher of personal space—mostly because he doesn’t have any! Thomas is known to do anything for a laugh. Whether it is climbing the steps of the mounting block, making funny faces from his stall or finding out what he can put in his mouth before anyone notices—he loves to entertain!
Do you happen to speak any German? Because Wowolken does! When he was three years old, Wow came to the United States from Germany. He is a registered Hanoverian and is the only horse in our herd who has their very own passport! His owner, Marissa, purchased him when he was six years old and together they competed in high level dressage. After retiring from his dressage career, Marissa decided to lease him to High & Mighty in December of 2012, and we are so glad that she did. Before he became a therapy horse, Wow didn’t have a lot of exposure to games, obstacles and scary objects. Because of this, Wow is an excellent teacher of how to overcome your fears. As long as his rider or leader is patient and understanding with him, he can often conquer his fears and complete the skill with flying colors. In his classes, Wow enjoys working on patterns and taking relaxing trail rides. Wow’s extensive training makes him a valuable addition to our program because he has so much to teach our students. While his numerous talents under saddle make him a great deal of fun to ride, it is his stunning good looks that make him a High & Mighty favorite—even of those who have just met him! His name speaks for itself—Wow!
Shoshones Belle (Belle)- Our Herd Guest
Although Belle does not participate in our program, as our resident Mustang she is still a very special part of our High & Mighty Herd. In 2018, Belle and her owner Monica became guests at High & Mighty. While their stay was intended to be temporary, the love that we felt from the pair and their story was too strong for us to part with. Before Belle became Monica’s, she was born wild in the mountains and canyons of New Pass-Ravenswood, Nevada in 2011. When she was only a year old, she was rounded up in a gathering by the Bureau of Land Management where she waited in holding until she was five. In April of 2016, Belle was touched by human hands for the very first time–beginning her gentling process. Monica and Belle met in July of 2016 at an auction. Belle had participated in the Extreme Mustang Makeover and was now for sale. Monica knew from the moment they met that she and Belle had a special connection, that Belle was hers and she was Belle’s. A true miracle allowed Monica to purchase Belle at that auction, and for the last three and half years Monica has been continuing Belle’s training to include dressage, jumping, riding without any tack and learning the ropes of what it is like to be a horse in a therapeutic setting. Belle has been helping Monica learn about the many aspects of horse language and the power of Energy Accountability. Using these skills, Belle has become Monica’s partner in sharing equine yoga with High & Mighty in the barn, pastures and through their Mindfulness Program for Handlers. Belle has been one of the biggest gifts to her human Monica!
Tennessee born, Dixie came to High & Mighty as a rescue puppy in February of 2013. Although she was a rescue, she quickly adapted to life on the farm and her role as the resident greeter. We are often asked what breed Dixie is, but the truth is, Laura isn’t sure! But she and her husband Steve are fairly certain that she is a mix of a golden retriever and a spaniel. Dixie spends her days patrolling the property for intruders (like squirrels, rabbits and birds), running through the woods on trail rides, watching lessons from the mounting ramp and getting long belly rubs and pets from our visitors. When it comes to asking for attention, Dixie is fearless. She just lifts her paw and gives you a nudge on the leg until you reach down to pet her. It’s a very effective method to get some scratches! Dixie hopes to one day follow in her late sister Buffy’s paw prints and is building her prerequisite skills for her therapy dog training.
Every barn needs a cat, and at High & Mighty we have Vernon! Upon his arrival at High & Mighty in 2016, Vernon was actually supposed to be Laura’s house cat, but it soon became clear that he was much happier in the barn. He adapted well to his barn cat job of keeping the buildings free of unwanted critters. Vernon got his name from Mt. Vernon, NY, where Laura’s husband Steve has several offices. Vernon was found as a stray around the buildings and Steve knew that they could give him the perfect home. Although Vernon was discovered as a stray, it was clear by his friendly demeanor that he had previously had not always been one. After spending some time at High & Mighty, Vernon soon showed how he likely became a stray cat—his love of cars. Vernon is known to climb into any vehicle with an open door or window and take a nap. It is possible that he climbed into someone’s car and woke up in a completely different area! So when you visit the farm, be sure to check your car before you leave the farm for any fluffy, gray stowaways! As you can tell, Vernon can be quite the character, so keep an eye out for him. When he is not busy hunting or sneaking into cars, he makes a game out of hiding in the bushes and leaping out at unsuspecting bystanders.
Meet the girls! High & Mighty is also home to a number of chickens who generously supply us with fresh eggs. Our chickens are free range, which means that they get to roam the farm on days when the weather is nice. We prefer for them to forage in the grass and bushes when they are strutting about, but they often make their way into the barn and try to lay eggs in the hay. Sometimes we can’t shoo them out fast enough and they are successful! The chickens love to eat food scraps of many varieties and look forward to our Horseplay Camp Program when the campers share their lunch scraps. They have developed quite a taste for peanut butter and jelly!