Langley, British Columbia, is considered the horse capital of the province, and it's home to more than 6,000 horses and thousands of horse industry professionals. But it's a mix of rural and urban areas, and many children there grow up without any knowledge of horses.
The Langley Horse Federation's education committee aimed to change that through the "A Pony Comes to School" program, intended to teach elementary school-age children about safety, fun horse facts and general information about the agricultural community.
When Sandra Verda, chairwoman of the education committee, told AQHA member Haidee Landry about the project last year, Haidee immediately knew she had the perfectpony.
Haidee's horse, Playin For Sugar, is a 13.3-hand cutting horse.
"She's a really cool little mare," Haidee says. "I bought her at her mother's side. Her mother's name is Mimi, so we call her Mini Me. The kids love that name.
"She's a (National Cutting Horse Association) money-earning cutting horse, and being a cutting horse, she's quite sensitive"
So when she went to school, Mini Me tended to flinch when children clapped their hands--teaching them what could happen when you startle a horse. And she wiggled her nose as commentary when the children scratched her withers.
"She's very, very broke and very, very sweet," Haidee says. "She always has this really pleasant expression on her face."
The children fell in love, and the teachers wrote testimonials about what a good experience it was.
From there, "It sort of grew legs of its own," Haidee says. Media attention included a newspaper article and a film crew from Alberta who wanted to feature Mini Me as an animal hero.
But don't think Mini Me is hogging the spotlight; she's sharing quite generously with her entire breed.
"AQHA was so good to us"? Haidee says. "They sent promotional materials, and we used AQHA materials to show coat colors, and we got the children AQHA pins and pictures and AQHA stickers. We were able to highlight not only horses and ponies, but also the American Quarter Horse.
Haidee says the Langley Horse Federation hoped to give children the simple chance to fall in love with horses.
"When was your "aha" moment when you fell in love with horses? We thought if we were able to get these horses to primary students, that maybe we could offer those kids their "aha" moments."