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Donna's Story

It was Donna’s mission to bring joy through her miniature therapy horses. Our generous supporters helped ensure they can continue bringing smiles to the faces of people who need it most.


"For the past three years, Donna has been helping to make people smile by visiting hospice and care centres with her miniature therapy horses."

A message from Donna, founder of Nolton Park: Horses Healing Hearts:

My name is Donna, and it’s my wish leave a legacy of light, love and joy for people facing life-limiting illness.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last three years helping to make people smile by visiting hospice and care centres with my miniature therapy horses.

Yes, that’s right – therapy horses! I started Nolton Park Horses Healing Hearts with one mission: to bring comfort and joy to those who need it most.

Donna, founder of Nolton Park: Horses Healing Hearts

I hope it brings a smile to your face just thinking about these adorable and specially trained animals walking into patients’ rooms for a nuzzle and a pat.

Sadly, my family is no stranger to life-limiting illness. Having lost my beautiful twin sister to breast cancer just last year, I, too, am now faced with the same life-limiting breast cancer.

I can no longer carry on my mission, but it’s my greatest wish for our horses to continue providing joy, long after I am gone.

Before I became too unwell for visits, the horses and I could see a few hundred people every week.
you may be wondering how this unique service came about. Horses are definitely not the pet therapy animals many people are used to!

Well, it started because of my breast cancer journey, when I realised firsthand just how powerful pet therapy can be.

More than ten years ago now, I went to see my doctor after feeling a lump in my left breast, and just two days later, I was given the life-changing diagnosis.

In the months that followed I had a partial mastectomy and battled through awful chemotherapy. It was one of the toughest times in my life, both physically and mentally.

Like many people who go through something like this, I fell into a depression. It was really hard to find and enjoy happy moments.

As a life-long horse lover myself, it broke my heart to no longer be able to ride. So, I turned to miniature horses and discovered a healing warmth and connection like no other.

The gentle touch and intuitive nature of the minis made them seem almost magical in their healing power. They made me feel so loved and comforted, that I had to share this feeling with others.

I started taking the horses into hospice and care centres, and I knew I had found my purpose.

The smiles and laughter of patients and their families when they see the horses is truly something special. It’s an unexpected delight amid so much heartache.

If the horses have taught me anything, it’s that even something small can make an enormous impact.

For many people in end-of-life care, our visits are the last time they’ll see and interact with one of these amazing animals. Even for people who aren’t horse lovers like me, this unexpected opportunity can be so joyful and overwhelming, that it often brings tears to people’s eyes.

Jane, a patient at Laurel Hospice who grew up with horses, was recently visited by our beautiful horse, Moet. Moet entered the room with her glittery green shoes and braided mane, and instantly, Jane’s face lit up.

“You don’t know how much of a difference this makes. You’ve really made my day,” said Jane to our volunteer as her husband Ian stood beside her, tears in his eyes as well.

My incredible volunteer, Kimberley would love to continue visits like this since I no longer can.

Since Kimberley first started with us, she has taken the horses on countless visits, trained and supported our other volunteers and even trained the horses themselves.

Kimberly (R) will continue Donna’s mission to spread love, light & joy.

But as Kimberley says, “It takes years to fully train a therapy horse to be suitable for therapy visits, but the training never stops.”

As well as the specialised training, it takes a lot of time and effort to get the horses ready for visits.

“We wash the horses in a special antibacterial wash and sanitize their gear before every visit to ensure they are all completely clean,” says Kimberley.


Thanks to the team, our horses are currently doing between 2 and 4 visits per week, meeting up to 110 people in the space of a 60-minute visit.

Kimberley sums it up well, saying, “We have so much passion for what we do. Every visit is unique and special in its own way and it is an honour to play a part in spreading love and joy.”

Thanks to support from our community, Donna’s mini therapy horses can continue bringing smiles to the faces of people who need it most.

Sadly, Donna passed away in July 2021. With funds raised by the community generously matched by THRF Group, a $50,000 grant will go directly to Nolton Park: Horses Healing Hearts to help the continuation and expansion of this much-loved volunteer service.
We know Donna would be delighted ❤️💜