When Horizon Structures’ Outside Salesman Brad Zeigler is out and about at events like Equine Affaire, Horse World Expo and K9 Conferences showcasing products of this leading modular manufacturer’s line of horse barns and kennels, his engaging and friendly personality brightens everyone’s day.
Zeigler meets some very interesting folks on his travels and as anyone that has spent days and days on end at an exhibit hosting the stand for prospective buyers knows, there is a special camaraderie that develops between fellow exhibitors during the shows. When you add the event circuit into the equation, many vendors meet up time and time again over the year.
One of these special relationships, developed between Zeigler and Sandy Smith over the past dozen years. Zeigler describes the relationship today as a ‘brother and sister’ type bond. When he overheard Sandy Smith talking about her horse therapy program during such an event, he asked his colleague Mick Rodgers, who was standing close-by, for more information about the new venture she was busy describing to her avid listeners. Mick Rodgers, is the owner at Saratoga Saddlery and Outback Survival Gear in Saratoga, NY, was happy to inform Zeigler about the program, and impressed by how worthy and noble a cause the project sounded, Zeigler offered to help in any way he could.
Time passed and a while later, Zeigler received a call from Rodgers, suggesting Sandy Smith could use some help to take her horse therapy program to the next level and register it as a 501(c) 3 charity organization. Zeigler jumped in to help out with some finances. This was the next step in the development of Dominique’s Smiles, as a registered 501(c)3 founded by Sandy Smith.
As you might suppose, the name of the organization is no accident. Dominique’s Smiles is based in Brogue, PA and its creation by lifelong horsewoman Sandy Smith is driven by a passion to help others. Her equestrienne expertise with horses spans many riding disciplines, and includes a career as jockey and a licensed racehorse trainer. She is an all around equine aficionado. Sandy’s compassion for horses and her love and empathy for people is clearly evident when you speak with her. Here’s her heartfelt account of Dominique’s backstory (bring your tissues, it’ll tug at your heart):
“I was working with Mick Rodgers, the owner of Outback Survival Gear located in Saratoga, Springs, NY at the PA Farm Show when we first met Dominique. She was being pushed around in a wheelchair by her grandfather and had just undergone cancer treatment at Hershey Children’s Hospital. Mick and I spent a lot of time chatting with Dominique. She was cheerful, engaging and funny and we listened to her stories of happier times out West with other ‘horse crazy cancer kids’ as she called the group. Whenever she spoke about horses she just lit up. She seemed to entirely forget about her cancer when she thought about horses.
A month later we were set to meet Dominique at the Harrisburg Horse World Expo as our special guest for the evening show, but sadly she couldn’t make it as she was back in hospital. Mick stopped by the hospital and gave her one of his specially designed Aussie hats to cheer her up – she loved it and wore it everywhere instead of the bright bandana she sported before.
I called Dominique the day after the show and asked if there was anything I could bring her when I visited. She wanted me to bring a horse – but of course she was joking, she knew I didn’t have a horse I could bring into the hospital. But I promised her that one day I would. I’d train a horse for therapy service and take it to hospitals to comfort kids with life threatening health issues.”
Sadly Dominique lost her battle with cancer but Sandy did not forget her promise. It took some time for Sandy to train the mini horse she found and fell in love with, that she named Dominique. Mick Rodgers of Outback Survival Gear sponsors Dominique’s Smiles, but it wasn’t long before others joined in, including Zeigler who dipped into his own pocket to help fund the charity registration.
“Sandy is just awesome. She has such a great heart and wants so much to help people and give them hope. Who wouldn’t give a helping hand to someone like that to bring her promise to help folks and bring happiness to fruition,” said Zeigler.
The joy that a horse innately brings to people is truly a gift worth giving. At just 32 inches high at his wither, mini therapy horse Dominique may be small in stature, but the amount of pleasure he brings to folks with his presence is huge. Everyone deserves love and happiness in their lives, especially folks that are suffering distress, trauma, loneliness and pain. The calm and gentle presence of this miniature horse wins the hearts of all he meets.
For the past year Sandy and her mini horse have visited many children’s hospitals, nursing homes, shut-ins and attended many special events for charitable causes to help spread love and happiness wherever they can, lighting up faces one smile at a time.
“Covid has made things very difficult. Of course Dominique is up to date on all his health requirements, vaccinations etc., and I have all the PPE and do all the sanitizing measures so I can bring him safely around people. This is obviously especially important for people that are so vulnerable to the virus due to their compromised immune systems. Years ago I worked in an ICU that had an isolation unit, so I know the protocol. We’ve been to birthday parties outside, attended small gatherings outside libraries with social distancing where I bring Dominique and I read to the kids.
The tough thing is that now people need the calm and companionship that therapy can bring them more than ever and yet it is so difficult to get access to give folks what they need, which is to give them comfort and hope and cheer them up. Staff and care providers need their spirits brightened up too. I need to find some forward thinking Doctors who realize the benefits we can bring and invite us in. We can suit up!” lamented Sandy.
And access isn’t the only difficulty that Dominique’s Smiles organization faces. Transport and more particularly, parking, can be an issue too.
“We are visiting hospitals in cities with a pick up truck and a bumper pull horse trailer. As you can imagine when we get to their parking lots there is not much space for us to set up or even to park for a short period. What I desperately need is a mini-van. I wish I could locate a car dealer as a sponsor for us. Even a used mini-van would do. Dealerships can visit our sponsor page on our new website, and see how we could highlight their business. A van would be seen every time Dom goes out and it certainly would be in a lot of places and photos. “The van of choice for Dominique,” I can see it now! His van is the Magic Carpet ride that brings him to kids and adults alike. I also plan to offer adventures of Dom doing stuff like getting out on the trails in the woods, visiting racetracks and experiencing life outside that I can relay to people that can’t get out themselves and explore anymore, that they can enjoy virtually,” explained Sandy.
When you meet Sandy you will encounter a positive, vibrant person that has a heart of gold and the energy of someone half her age. Dominique follows Sandy around like a loyal dog and has a definite ability to instantly bond and find rapport with folks.
Whether he is the center of attention at a party or busy weaving his tiny equine self between hospital equipment and beds to come in reach for petting and hugging, Dominique and his inimitable owner will be loved by all that come into contact with them.
Other businesses and individuals are welcome to join in and support Sandy’s efforts. In addition to Horizon’s Zeigler, others such as the feed supply store The Mill at Red Lion have also joined in to support this noble cause.
If you would like to offer some love and support to their organization please visit their website and donate what you can, or reach out and set up a visit with a local hospital, care facility, school or community event to help spread the smiles and brighten op the world, one smile at a time.
PLEASE NOTE: This article is available for use in its entirety without edit, in any media format on condition that credit is given to Horizon Structures Inc., and author Nikki Alvin-Smith as a byline at the beginning of the article publication and Horizon Structures URL address and Nikki Alvin-Smith URL is included. Horizon would appreciate notification of any publication and please contact Horizon Structures for photos to accompany the article.
This article is brought to you courtesy of Horizon Structures Inc., Atglen PA – Modular horse barn and indoor riding arena specialists. Horizon Structures also offers both residential and commercial kennels, coops, multi-use structures and playsets. Please visit https://www.HorizonStructures.com to learn more.
About Horizon Structures: One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners. At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.
All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need –
Horizon Structures also sells chicken coops, equine hay feeders, greenhouses, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures.
Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook. Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business. He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.
For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com
Horizon Structures LLC, Atglen, PA
Photos are available on request.
About Nikki Alvin-Smith: International and national published freelance writer and photographer in such world renowned publications such as The Chronicle of the Horse, Horse and Hound, Dressage and CT, Warmbloods Today, The Horseman’s Yankee Pedlar, Reiter, The Equine Journal, Spur, Hoofprints, Horsin’ Around, Horses All, Field & Stream, Western Horse and Gun, Pony Quarterly, Horses All Canada, Catskill Horse to name a few. Ghostwriting, blog services, PR/Marketing copy either direct with manufacturer or for agencies, copy editing and editor services also available. Nikki also produces catalog copy, white papers, e-books, corporate brochures and advertising copy for international corporations and PR/Marketing for celebrities.
As a Brit who has called the America home for the past 34 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. Nikki is also an accomplished Grand Prix dressage trainer/competitor, competing at international Grand Prix level to scores over 72% and is a highly sought clinician offering clinics worldwide. She has been a horse breeder/importer of warmblood and Baroque breeds for more than 25 years. Together with her husband Paul who is also a Grand Prix trainer, they run Willowview Hill Farm, a private dressage breeding operation and training yard in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York. Please visit https://nikkialvinsmithstudio.com/ to learn more about her affordable services.