BEDMINSTER, Pa. — For her 50th birthday, all Donna Beers wanted was a miniature horse. The result was Penelope. It is a gift that keeps giving.

A few years ago, Beers and her daughter, Kelsey went to a rescue and there they met the little chestnut mare. They planned to come back with a trailer but the woman at the rescue said that was not necessary, and picked the petite equine up and put her in the back of the Beers’ mini-van.

“We are a mother daughter horse family,” Kelsey Beers said. Although her brother is a farrier, her father is not much of a horse lover. At the time, the family was living in Levittown, Pa. and back at home, dad, Bill, had no idea a little horse was coming. To ease the blow, “Like any good Italian my Mom stopped for lots of food on the way home. Not wanting to be far from the mini in case she did anything crazy, she parked in the fire zone and ran in to get the food,” she said.

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A police officer was writing a ticket when Donna Beers came out of the store.  She would not normally park in a fire zone but she didn’t want to leave the horse and her daughter in the car too far away. As she was explaining that to the officer, Penelope stepped forward and the officer cracked up in laughter. The ticket was ripped up and the Beers were on their way.

The mini horse lived in the Beers' tiny yard in a playhouse. “She was so happy everyday to see the kids as they walked home from school and stopped to put their hands through the fence,” Kelsey Beers said.

Penelope was later certified as a therapy pet by the Delta Society.

Keeping horses, even a miniature one, in a suburban neighborhood is difficult. So after a year, the family moved to a farmette in Bedminster, Pa.

There, mother and daughter started a program called Everything Little Farm where children learn to ride and love animals. Penelope has several other equine friends there but still loves the company of humans. The Beers also started a non-profit, Penelope’s Helping Hooves.

The Beers took Penelope to nursing homes “The children from the farm would come too, happy to share their pictures and memories with the residents,” Beers said.

Although these visits sometimes means taking off from paying jobs, the rewards are immeasurable. At the nursing home, “Penelope would rest her head on their laps as they would pet her. A gentleman with late stage of Alzheimer’s took her lead-line from us and started tying knots he learned in the Navy! He could no longer speak, but he was able to still remember how to do this,” Beers said.

Penelope also visits hospitals and hospice facilities. “We will never forget the one patient we visited, near the end of her young life, and Penelope walked into the room and laid her head in her blankets. It was a heartbreaking memory for all that were there,” Beers said.

Penelope also visited schools for the blind, a multiple handicap classroom and classrooms for children with autism. When the conditions permit, Penelope is harnessed up and gives rides in her cart. At a Shriners Hospital for children there was a recreation room big enough for cart rides. It was on the top floor, which meant an elevator ride to get there.

“What started out as a way for Penelope to live a good life in a suburban town has now become her calling. She is naughty with her pasture mates, but you take her out and into our mini-van (yes she still travels that way today) and she is a whole different animal,” Kelsey Beers said.

Penelope’s Helping Hooves is part of an online contest for a $1,000 donation from Each month three charities are nominated and the public can vote once a day. The current round of voting ends on April 30.  

To learn more see or

National Volunteer Week is April 7 to 13. TAPinto Horses is spolighting volunteers who help horses or help humans with horses.

Volunteer Week Spotlight: Helping Out At Mane Stream Fills A Void

Volunteer Week Spotlight: Young 4-Hers Honored For Their Service To Crane Mountain Valley Horse Rescue

National Volunteer Week Spotlight: Hunterdon 4-H Leader Amanda Kovacs

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