Written by Mary Schrott
Squatting on a dusty cement barn floor, Lisa Moad is forehead to forehead with a young miniature horse. The horse is named Hope and stands but a yard tall. Hope nuzzles into Lisa’s chest; her fluffy white mane matches Lisa’s short pixie haircut.
Lisa’s son, David, is on Hope’s other side stroking her barrel like torso. Hope is getting the oily baby hairs of her mane trimmed for her upcoming appearance at the Cincinnati Reds’ opening day parade.
“Go slow,” Lisa instructs David. “It’s scary having an electric razor on your body.”
David holds the plastic shaft of the razor against Hope’s neck so that she can acclimate to the vibration. Lisa’s sparkly red finger nails stroke the petit horse’s hair — her wedding bands shining through the strands.
A barn cat rubs up against the side of Lisa’s leg begging for attention. She maintains her balance over the toes of her cowgirl boots and frees a hand — cupping cat’s small head.
Lisa has the magic touch.
Several years ago, Lisa and her husband John, who are in their mid-fifties and parents to five boys, moved onto Seven Oaks Farm in Hamilton, Ohio.
“Before we had signed the papers for the farm, I had my horses,” Lisa laughed across a wooden kitchen island in the heart of her farmhouse.
It’s just after 10 a.m. and Lisa, who has been up for nearly five hours, is on her second cup of coffee.
The farm has a 130-year-old barn, 40 acres, 23 horses, six dogs, five barn cats, one pig and a pond — which sits picturesquely outside the window above her kitchen sink.
Lisa runs her farm like a natural, yet many parts of her life have been away from the rural lifestyle.
“Every three years, we moved like clockwork,” Lisa said.
Lisa grew up in a military family where homes were temporary, but animals were constant.
“Even if we were living in the city my mom would get us a chicken and we would hide it so our neighbors wouldn’t know,” Lisa chuckled. “I’ve just always loved animals — they’re good for the soul.”
In 1971, when Lisa was in fifth grade, her father retired and her family moved onto a farm where they raised dairy cows and feeder pigs. It was there Lisa and her sister pooled their money together and bought their first horse, Dutch.
Though Dutch sparked Lisa’s love for horses, life kept moving.
Lisa married John, who is a military man like her father, after high school at 18-years-old. Several homes and 36 years of marriage later, Lisa’s life is now rooted at Seven Oaks which has allowed her to do what she loves most — care for animals.
Before Lisa moved onto Seven Oaks, she and her son decided to pass time one day by going to a horse show. To their surprise, all the contestants were pint sized.
The high pitched neighs and tiny clicking hooves captured Lisa’s heart. From then on she was hooked.
“Miniatures are more people oriented. They are calm and easy going for the most part,” Lisa said.
Lisa has 21 miniature horses on her farm today, along with two standard-sized horses and a cluster of other animals like cats and dogs who act as barn helpers.
All of Lisa’s children are grown, but remain close to the farm. Keeping weekends free for family time is a priority for Lisa, despite her busy schedule.
Lisa, her son David and his wife Kate, who are living on the farm while David finishes school, are the only full-time workers on the farm.
Each day, Lisa wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to do body checks and feed the horses.
“When I go out to feed and the barn is quiet and all you can hear are the horses munching it’s very serene and soothing,” Lisa said. “It’s dead quiet the sun is starting to come up and all you hear is the ‘munch, munch, munch.’ It’s so good just to sit there and have the quiet and peace before the day starts.”
Kate, Lisa’s 24-year-old daughter-in-law, said Lisa has more knowledge about animals than anyone else she knows.
“Out here on the farm with her you see how much she loves them,” Kate said.
Kate married into Lisa’s family in August 2015 — two minis, Diva and Lily, were in attendance with colored manes and bows.
Spiffing up is important for Lisa and her horses. Right now, Kate and Lisa have matching red sparkly nails, which they got done together for the upcoming Reds’ parade.
As soon as Lisa got her own mini horses, she knew people were attracted to them. She began taking her minis to places like Home Depot and Wal-Mart to sensitize them to populated environments.
“Everyone was gaga over these horses,” Lisa said.
Though the minis are mesmerizing to some people, Lisa’s touch makes their interactions special.
“Lisa’s a people person, not just an animal person,” volunteer Avis Halpen said as she walked a mini with Kate and another volunteer Lorrie Newmister.
Kate said it was one of their first training trips to Wal-Mart where she saw the potential Lisa had to change lives. As Kate stood with two minis in the superstore and Lisa talked to the manager, a special needs boy approached Kate with his mom.
“The mom’s kinda like don’t do that, don’t do that and the kid comes up and looks at the horse,” Kate reenacts his timid peering with the horse she is currently walking.
“Lisa says you can pet him, but he is hesitant,” Kate told the boy.
The boy slowly moved closer to the horses. Lisa then took his hand and gently placed it on the horse’s mane. He begins to smile and tears ran down his face. His mother looked on, crying as well, and expressed how much it meant to her.
“It gives me goose bumps; it was the coolest thing,” Kate said.
Currently Lisa’s non-profit miniature horse therapy business visits nursing homes, hospice patients, epilepsy patients, college campuses, the Ronald McDonald House and classrooms where children read to the minis. They also attend special events for local police departments to engage the community.
“We’re pretty busy,” Lisa said. “It’s a lot of work.”
The 14 “working” minis do three to five visits a week and visit certain nursing homes on a regular basis.
Lisa particularly likes visiting nursing homes. Many people in nursing homes and hospice don’t think they will ever have a chance to see a horse again, said Lisa, which makes the visit special.
At one nursing home, Lisa met an Alzheimer’s patient with one of her minis by request of the patient’s son. She had a very blank look on her face, moved with limitation and couldn’t talk or express emotions well.
“We were trying to help her pet the horse, she had grown up on a farm with horses,” Lisa said. “She began stroking it and tears start streaming down her face. It meant a lot to see that animal again.”
Lisa said the mom had raised her son on a farm and it was a special moment for them both to connect to those memories from within the home.
“In the nursing homes people are calm and loving to them so if someone is hugging them they will hug back,” Kate said. “Horses mirror your emotions.”
David is finishing up grooming Hope. As his shears get closer to her ears, Hope leans further into Lisa’s chest. Lisa speaks in a calm voice to the miniature horse and Hope relaxes.
When David finishes, Lisa pets Hope and gets up. Hope in tow, she moves towards the door that leads out to a pen holding the minis outside of the barn.
High pitched neighs cry out from behind the door as Lisa opens it. She exits into the muddy patch and the horses jauntily approach her — spellbound.