Schenectady County

Miniature horse cheers up children in hospital

A horse is a horse, of course, of course. Unless it’s Thumbelina, the world’s smallest horse, who v
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A horse is a horse, of course, of course.

Unless it’s Thumbelina, the world’s smallest horse, who visited young patients at the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center on Wednesday and brought a little bit of magic with her.

Thumbelina, who is 17 inches tall, arrived at the hospital in the Thumbymobile, a special RV used to transport her on her tour, and she immediately wowed the crowd who gathered to see her near the main entrance to the hospital.

She was born at 8.5 pounds and is a dwarf miniature horse. “We call her a mini-mini,” said her handler, Michael Goessling, son of miniature-horse farmers Kay and Paul Goessling.

Thumbelina was certified in 2006 as the world’s smallest living horse by the Guinness World Records and the smallest horse that ever lived.

The chestnut mare was born on May 1, 2001, on Goose Creek Farms in St. Louis, which is where the Goesslings raise miniature horses.

Thumbelina always seemed to gravitate toward children who were sick, said Goessling, who said her name comes from the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale about a woman the size of a thumb.

Goessling said that technically Thumbelina is not supposed to exist. “Children think of her as a fantasy, like a fairy or an elf and they can touch and pet her.”

After she was listed as the world’s smallest horse and her picture went out on the Internet, people thought it had to be a fake photograph. Talk shows wanted Thumbelina and she appeared on “Oprah,” the “Today” show and “Good Morning America.”

She cheered children up so much and brought them such joy, the family decided to start the Thumbelina Charitable Foundation . It’s created to channel the affection for Thumbelina toward children’s charities.

The goal is to visit sick and needy children across the United States and raise $1 million for children’s charities.

Wednesday’s visit to the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center was part of the second annual Thumbelina Children’s Tour.

Thumbelina traveled nearly 40,000 miles in the Thumbymobile and visited more than 20,000 children in more than 180 hospitals, schools and shelters last year.

Goessling said that he believes Thumbelina was born for this mission and that she loves people. “ It’s funny, she’s never angry or upset. She’s always calm. She does seem to enjoy it.”

And so do the children who came down to see her on Wednesday — some in wheelchairs and pulling IVs and all braving a light rain.

Thumbelina nuzzled up to Samantha “Sammie” Sagnelli, 9, of Clifton Park, for several minutes during the visit. Samantha has been a patient at the Children’s Hospital and loves the pet therapy. Thumbelina was a highlight.

“This just calms her down,” said her mother, Beth Sagnelli.

Elyssa Early, 14, of Valatie, also a patient, was happy to be outside and petted Thumbelina and took pictures of the little horse.

Goessling, who had Thumbelina on a purple harness, talked with the children and answered questions as they petted her and took pictures. She loves apples and baby carrots.

She is a little fat now because she hasn’t been on the road, he told them.

Thumbelina turned out to be the boss on the family farm. Even as a baby, she kicked the dog out of the doghouse, said Goessling, and to this day Thumbelina still sleeps in a doghouse.

She hasn’t had any sick days and has been in good health though Goessling and Thumbelina were delayed getting to Albany Medical Center on Wednesday because they had to pick up a brace for Thumbelina’s back right leg.

But it didn’t seem to bother the world’s smallest equine a bit, and with her enormous brown eyes she gently nuzzled up to the children and let them pet her and seemed to enjoy it as much as the children .

“It’s really great, she can be so calm when we’re around her,” said Jayna Schenk, 16, of Delmar who sat crouched on the ground petting Thumbelina and said she felt like smooth velvet,

Loretta Reid of Fort Plain met Thumbelina with her 14-year-old daughter, Clorissa. “This is nice. it gives the children something to do and breaks up their illness,” she said.

“I’d never thought I’d get to see her,” said Clorissa.

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