Miniature horses brighten seniors' day 

Courtesy photoVicki Bushey of Newburyport pets Peanut, a miniature horse visiting the Newburyport Senior Community Center on Wednesday. Looking on is NEER North volunteer Kerri Frost, left, and Ann Markos of Newburyport. 

NEWBURYPORT — Fresh from her Wednesday morning ukulele session at the Senior Community Center, local resident Vicki Bushey stopped by to pet Peanut and Magnolia, two miniature horses rescued by NEER North and brought to the High Street building to bring a smile to seniors' faces. 

Standing next to her was fellow Newburyport resident and frequent community center visitor Ann Markos. 

"I think they're incredible, everything is incredible here," Markos said. 

The visit from the West Newbury-based facility, also known as New England Equine Rescue - North, is part of the community center's goal of bringing area nonprofit organizations to the building each Wednesday to enrich seniors, according to activities director Mary Kelly. 

Kelly said the horses were a huge hit with seniors, saying that in most cases they do not have as much access to animals, including house pets, as in the past. Kelly said the idea of inviting NEER North to the center came after seeing its booth at the farmers market held each Sunday in The Tannery parking lot off Water Street. 

Mary Martin of NEER North said she was thrilled to make the trip Wednesday, saying anything she can do to help boost her organization's profile around Greater Newburyport was worthwhile. Plus, she added, it was gratifying to see so many people take a shine to Peanut and Magnolia. 

Peanut, 15, and 10-year-old Magnolia are among the dozens of animals sheltered at the Ash Street center. In addition to 35 horses, the facility cares for 10 donkeys, a mule, sheep, chickens and a barn cat. 

"We're all animal lovers," Martin said. 

Martin said with COVID-19 restrictions curtailing visits to NEER North, it was decided to bring select creatures to different addresses so that more people could learn about the organization.

"If they can't come to us, we can go to them," Martin said. 

Since 2008, NEER North has been rescuing at-risk horses, donkeys, ponies and other animals from across the region. They also work with horse owners to help them avoid crises and meet other owners. NEER North not only rescues equines but rehabilitates them and finds new homes. 

"Thank goodness for rescue groups," Sandy Jenkins of Newburyport said, moments after petting Magnolia and Peanut. 

NEER North is at 52 Ash St., West Newbury. For more information on NEER North, visit: Email:

Dave Rogers is a staff writer with The Daily News. Email him at: Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

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