Barrington High students take time to horse around during final exams

 
 
Updated 5/25/2016 10:26 PM
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  • Barbara Malczynski, a Barrington High School junior, pets mini horse Mystery at the school Wednesday morning. Mystery and two other horses visited the school to provide students a brief respite from the stress of final exams.

      Barbara Malczynski, a Barrington High School junior, pets mini horse Mystery at the school Wednesday morning. Mystery and two other horses visited the school to provide students a brief respite from the stress of final exams. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Sophomores Grace Aleksick, left, Isaac Cheek and Fiona Nyland cuddle up to Lunar, one of three therapy mini horses that visited Barrington High School on Wednesday to give students some relief from the stress of final exams.

      Sophomores Grace Aleksick, left, Isaac Cheek and Fiona Nyland cuddle up to Lunar, one of three therapy mini horses that visited Barrington High School on Wednesday to give students some relief from the stress of final exams. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Senior Micah Giffey, pets Lunar, a therapy mini horse that visited students at Barrington High School on Wednesday to give them a break from final exams.

      Senior Micah Giffey, pets Lunar, a therapy mini horse that visited students at Barrington High School on Wednesday to give them a break from final exams. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Sophomore Steve Adams, dressed in camouflage, poses with mini horse Lunar after the first final exam period of the day Wednesday morning at Barrington High School.

      Sophomore Steve Adams, dressed in camouflage, poses with mini horse Lunar after the first final exam period of the day Wednesday morning at Barrington High School. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Sophomore Daniela Claudio takes a selfie with Lunar, one of three therapy mini horses that visited Barrington High School on Wednesday to give students some relief from the stress of final exams.

      Sophomore Daniela Claudio takes a selfie with Lunar, one of three therapy mini horses that visited Barrington High School on Wednesday to give students some relief from the stress of final exams. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

To walk through the halls of Barrington High School with mini horses Lunar, Mystery and Charmer is like walking with a celebrity.

Except unlike human celebrities, the thigh-high trio that visited the school Wednesday morning to help students relieve the stress of final exams, never tire of taking pictures or getting hugs from an endless torrent of smiling teenage admirers.

Also, they occasionally poop in the hallway.

"The horses are used to large crowds," said Dina Morgan, director of development for Mane in Heaven, a nonprofit which takes care of seven therapy horses. "They are very calm, they love to be pet and hugged ... That's their job."

The horses and their handlers visited Barrington High for an hour Wednesday, the second-to-last day of finals. Principal Steve McWilliams figured the visit would be a good way to boost student morale, but didn't think it would be as popular as it turned out.

Hundreds if not thousands of photos were taken by smartphone wielding students and Mane in Heaven volunteers. And when the first final exam period let out around 10:30 a.m., a crowd of a few dozen admirers in the school's common area swelled to more than 100.

"I just came out of my human biology class and I saw that there were horses in the hallway," junior Allie Oetinger said after getting a picture with Lunar. "It truly brightened my day and made my finals experience a lot brighter and happier."

Making the horses somehow even cuter were the little socks and shoes on their feet that kept them from slipping on the hallway floors. Morgan said the footwear is made by a company that makes shoes for stuffed animals.

Mane in Heaven, which was founded in 2012, previously has taken horses to visit students in Crystal Lake, as well as at Northwestern University. The horses also visit nursing homes, hospitals, libraries and anywhere else their therapy skills are needed.

Morgan said the horses are stabled at the Silver Linings Equestrian Center in Lake in the Hills. The organization, which relies on volunteers and donations, was able to visit Barrington High thanks to a grant from the Barrington Area Community Foundation.

It may be the first time in decades that an actual horse has been brought into the school, whose mascot is a mustang.

"The last time a horse was in Barrington High was during a senior prank in the 70s," McWilliams said. "And that might just be an urban legend."

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