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Rescue horse named Oxford’s new mayor

August 08, 2012

A BAG OF OATS IN EVERY POT — Oxford’s new four-legged mayor, Elf, makes his first statements to his constituency. With him is his longtime political adviser Lynn Daniels. Photo by C.J Carnacchio.
Villages in Michigan typically don't have mayors; they have council presidents.

But Oxford Village boldly broke the mold Sunday afternoon by appointing its first-ever mayor. It also broke the species barrier by giving the title to a horse.

His name is Elf and he's a 10-year-old Haflinger who resides at Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles, Inc. (OATS) located at 3090 Weidemann Drive in Clarkston.

"We're going to take on the mayorship of Oxford and then we're going to go for the presidency and the White House," said Lynn Daniels, an instructor and part-time barn manager for OATS for more than 10 years. "Everybody vote for Elf."

Elf was named mayor following the pet parade/contest held in downtown's Centennial Park as part of Celebrate Oxford.

Prior to his new political career, Elf came to OATS as a rescue horse. "He was on his way to slaughter," Daniels said. "A woman saved him and donated him to us."

The reason Elf was going to be killed was because unlike most horses, whose ears are erect at all times, his ears are different.

"Elf can put his ears up, but when they're not up, they lay down to the side," Daniels said. "It's actually a genetic deformity. It's very, very rare."

Daniels was excited about Elf's new title because it means more publicity for OATS and all the good work this nonprofit organization does.

"Hopefully, more people hear about us," she said. "A lot of people don't realize we're out there. We really need help. We run on volunteers and donations. We really count on people to help support us and help us grow."

Established in 1997, the mission of OATS is to encourage and promote the health, well being and happiness of handicapped individuals through horseback riding and related activities. OATS is open to individuals of nearly any age with nearly any emotional, physical or learning disability.

"The goal of our program is independence for every rider," Daniels said. "We don't turn anybody away. We're the only center in Michigan that has an electric lift to lift riders (who can't walk) on (to horses). We don't turn anybody away because of size or disability.

"We've got some riders that have been kicked out of other programs. We say bring them here. They're not going to learn if they're not in a program."

Oxford resident Sarrah Palmer is one of OATS' many success stories.

"She started (riding) with a leader and two side-walkers – two people walking next to her – and now, she rides independently," Daniels said. "I can ask her to go get her horse and she'll go catch him, groom him, tack him, ride him. She doesn't need any help. That's the goal for every rider."

It's obvious from talking to her that Daniels is quite passionate about her work at OATS.

"I love what I do," she said. "I love seeing the smiles on their faces. We've had kids that were told they'd never walk, told they'd never talk. We've had riders that were told they wouldn't live past 3 or 4 and now, one rider is 9 years old and walking."

"You get them on the back of a horse and it's a miracle," Daniels noted.

Judging by the way OATS has grown over the years, there's a definite need for its therapeutic riding services.

"We started with four horses and four volunteers," Daniels said. "We now have 15 horses and hundreds of volunteers. We ride over 120 per week in addition to school groups."

All of the workers at OATS are volunteers.

"We're always looking for volunteers, so whoever wants to come out, they can look on our website www.oatshrh.org," Daniels said.

All of OATS' horses are donated.

"We don't buy or sell horses," she said.

To contact OATS, please call (248) 620-0505 or (248) 620-1775. OATS can also be reached via e-mail at oatssmiles@aol.com.