Horse News

Rejected by his mama, a miniature horse foal is destined to be therapist for people

By Hunterdon County Democrat

“It’s always a pleasure when ‘Feel Good Sunday’ rolls around and this installation will surely warm your hearts as well as your souls.  Keep the Faith my friends.” ~ R.T.


“The responsibilities of Koal’s care is a huge team effort between family, friends, and new found friendships,”

Koal, a miniature horse foal that was rejected by his mother is happy to have human companions. ~ Dawn Fry

Koal, a miniature horse foal that was rejected by his mother is happy to have human companions. ~ Photo by Dawn Fry

KINGSTON, N.J. — After coming home from work one day, Dawn Marie Fry of Flemington, N.J. was surprised to find a small black newborn miniature horse foal — no bigger than a greyhound.

Fry had no idea Koal’s mother was pregnant as she had only recently acquired the mare. It was luck that both the mother and the foal were perfectly healthy after birth as miniature horses have a harder time having a successful birth than normal horses, according to Fry.

“Koal,” as he has been affectionately named, was rejected by his mother only a week after birth. “We learned through video surveillance the first time mother would pick Koal up by the neck and toss him, kick him, and would trample him causing him to roll in the dirt and get stepped on,” Fry said.

Fortunately Koal suffered no serious injuries although his caretakers were faced with many obstacles. Without his mother’s care, Koal needed around-the-clock feedings. Fry worked full time, but fortuitously at a horse farm in Kingston called Hasty Acres. Every morning Fry would drive Koal to work in her car where he calmly fell asleep on the seat next to her.

Koal learned to drink formula from a syringe. At night time, Koal was kept inside Fry’s kitchen, often accompanied by her children who fell asleep on the floor together with the foal. Koal wore a diaper in the house and slept on warm blankets on the kitchen floor.

Koal is old enough now that he is no longer on milk pellets and lives outside with his goat friend, Iggy, eating “big boy” feed. “Koal has been practicing leading and he will proudly walk all over my property with me. He loves to get the mail with me too,” Fry said.

At Hasty Acres, Koal has touched many lives. “He is awe-inspiring with his small size and attracts visitors far and wide who would come to see the miracle foal,” Fry said. She encourages everyone who stops by the enter Koal’s stall and to pet him.

Initially after losing his mother, depression set in but with the help of friends and strangers who would come soothe and feed Koal, he soon thrived. “The responsibilities of Koal’s care is a huge team effort between family, friends, and new found friendships,” Fry said.

Koal enjoys playing with children. “The joy on the children’s faces is priceless as they frolic through the fields together,” Fry said. Koal follows his new “parents,” Fry and any other person he deems fit for the title, all over the farm like a shadow. Koal is fearless from being hand raised and handled by humans mostly of the time, he rarely shows any nervousness.

Fry encourages everyone to interact with Koal to get him accustomed to human touch so she may use him for therapy when he is full grown. She runs a therapeutic riding program called Heads Up Special Riders, Inc. which currently teaches therapeutic horseback riding, and equine assisted psychotherapy for battered/abused women. She hopes to extend the programs Heads Up offers and help more people — using Koal to launch a new program.

Koal will one day become a certified therapy animal and visit nursing homes and hospitals.

Not long ago, Koal made a trip to Petsmart in Raritan Township for training to get him used to automatic doors, meeting new people, animals, lights and just being in a new place in general. “I bought him little sneakers for his hooves (dog sneakers – very stylish) so he would not slip on tile floors for our visits. Not one single person could walk by us without saying hello and getting their picture taken with Koal. The store associates said they have never had a horse in their store before!” Fry said.

Koal also made a guest appearance at Eno Terra’s in Princeton Farm to Table Event. Proceeds benefited charity and Koal was one of the star attractions.

To learn more about Heads Up Special Riders see headsupspecialriders.com.

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