“Springsteen” Makes a Special Appearance in Downtown Ocean City

first_imgChris Dougherty, 5, of Upper Township, gives “Springsteen,” a soon-to-be therapy horse, a pat on the head outside of Stainton’s Gallery of Shops. By MADDY VITALEThe big carriage horses that are trotting down Asbury Avenue as tourist attractions during the holiday shopping season have nothing on “Springsteen.”You might say he was born to run, but he is no Thoroughbred.He measures just 26 inches high and, well, there isn’t exactly a Triple Crown for a mini-horse, but in just six months he will be trained to be a therapy horse.Everyone – every horse – has a calling.And it seemed the mellow fellow had the right blend of cuteness and cuddly power to calm even the most frazzled shoppers who browsed some of the 85 booths at Stainton’s Gallery of Shops, 810 Asbury Ave., on Saturday afternoon.Without a whinny, Springsteen slowly made his way, with his handler, Lee Giroux, of Little Egg Harbor Township, into Stainton’s and then headed outside, to the excitement, awe and surprise of some shoppers.“Mom! I want to pet him!” exclaimed 5-year-old Chris Dougherty, of Upper Township.His mom, Sue Fritz, said that absolutely would be fine as she snapped cellphone photos to capture the cute moment.Jack Brannon, 12, of West Chester, Pa., gets acquainted with the miniature horse as other children watch in amusement.Jack Brannon 12, of West Chester, Pa., whose family has a vacation home in Ocean City, was happy to pet Springsteen.He smiled and then giggled at the diminutive horse. He even got to give him some of Springsteen’s favorite snacks, which were low-fat, apple flavor miniature horse treats.Shoppers in line for their purchases asked Giroux all about Springsteen.She explained that he is a year and a half old and in just six months he will become a therapy horse for people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and visit people in assisted-living communities, hospitals and other places at therapy centers throughout South Jersey.“I’m excited to be able to bring Springsteen here. This is his debut. He has never been inside a store before,” Giroux joked.This is her first time working with a miniature horse. Her goal is to have Springsteen’s larger counterparts trained to also become therapy horses.Springsteen and Giroux were guests of Mike Yanniello, owner of “My Derby,” a shop specializing in Kentucky Derby collectibles in Stainton’s.Last year, Yaniello brought in a horse named Nate from Black Oak Farm in Egg Harbor City to raise funds for Hope Farm in Galloway Township, which provides therapy for those in recovery and for people with disabilities.From left, Springsteen’s handler, Lee Giroux, with Stainton’s Director of Operations Bridget Buchanan and Michael Yanniello, the owner of “My Derby,” a shop in the downtown business district.This year’s event was to spread awareness about children and adults with disabilities, PTSD and chronic illness and also for autism awareness.“Springsteen is soon to be a therapy horse and will be sure to lift people’s spirits, especially at this time of year,” Yanniello noted.Springsteen has now been named the official mascot of Heart of Surfing, a local organization run by Cindy and Bob Fertsch that sponsors surfing and activities for families that are faced with the challenges of autism and other disabilities.Director of Stainton’s Operations Bridget Buchanan said she was delighted to have Springsteen come to visit and spread awareness about the importance of therapy animals.“I am happy Springsteen is here to show how a mini-horse can also be a therapy animal,” Buchanan said with a smile as she patted him. “Since I have been here, we have been using Stainton’s as a platform to be able to bring awareness to organizations and causes.”Springsteen may be small in stature, but he is big on heart and holiday spirit.last_img read more