Philly Rising: Amid COVID-19 restrictions, miniature therapy horse still able to spread joy

Miniature horse Buttercup visits Mighty Writers kids
Photo credit Courtesy of Erin Brown
By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A 5-year-old miniature horse that usually spends time with patients at a Philadelphia hospital gave some kids a much needed pick-me-up in West Philadelphia.

Towards the end of 2019, Buttercup, a miniature horse, was starting to trot in her purpose: uplifting the spirits of patients and staff at a Philadelphia hospital.

Buttercup enjoys eating grass, peppermints, carrots and apples, according to her caretaker, Erin Brown of the nonprofit PURA (Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy), which aims to enrich the lives of people, especially children, through equestrian activities.

“She jumps right into character,” Brown said.

As it turns out, her petite stature, sand brown colored hair, and timid personality make her the perfect “my little therapy pony.”

“She is the most skittish, jumpy. But when she’s around patients and children, she’s like this sweet, caring, nurturing, not scared of anything, brave heart little pony. It’s just amazing to see her personality,” Brown said.

But the pandemic meant Buttercup had to stop visiting hospitals. 

“She’s been on vacation, playing with her friends and eating,” Brown added. 

As local restrictions began to lift, a friend from the nonprofit Mighty Writers phoned Brown for a favor last weekend, and she couldn’t say no.

“ ‘Erin I need a favor. The kids really need a pick-me-up,’ ” Brown recalled. “She’s telling me how sad they are and they miss their friends.” 

Buttercups visit to @mightywriters

A post shared by PURA (@philadelphiaurbanridingacademy) on Jun 26, 2020 at 12:52pm PDT

So, she took Buttercup to the Mighty Writers distribution site in West Philly, and the miniature horse spent the day providing kids and staff with some much needed joy and relief.

“Due to COVID and schools closing, kids can’t have their recreational (activities). Seeing Buttercup come to their area changed their whole little mood around,” Brown said. “It’s got to be difficult. You’ve got all this energy and miss your friends. She was just there to bring some excitement to them for a few hours.”

Brown said the kids enjoyed grooming and playing with Buttercup while she enjoyed the carrots and apples they fed her.

“Buttercup was in her glory,” she said.

Brown, also known as the “Concrete Cowgirl,” said right now, PURA is working to preserve the rich history of Black urban cowboys from Fletcher Street Stables.

As for Buttercup, Brown said she will still be keeping a low profile until the pandemic ends. But it was more than worth it to see the joy and healing the miniature horse could bring to a group of kids during these times.

“Just seeing their smiles always does it for me,” Brown added