Princess Xellie, Hope in the Saddle’s 2019 Therapy Horse of the Year, and Matthew.

Princess Xellie, or Xellie for short, is a truly magical pony princess. As any good princess should be, Princess Xellie is patient, smart, capable, and shows genuine affection for her riders and friends.

Xellie used to be a competitive trail pony but came to our center when her rider outgrew her. A diminutive 10H and 2in, this small but mighty princess is a truly magical therapy pony. She is amazingly patient with her riders, ignoring the flailing limbs of her happy CP [cerebral palsy] patients, and eagerly going on adventures with her riders. But she is legendary here for her relationship with one special client.

Matthew, an adult in his 30s, has CP and epilepsy, and is ill enough that he cannot ride. Xellie knows Matthew’s name and will actively look for him if you tell her he’s coming. When he arrives, Matthew gives Xellie kisses and she stands perfectly still, letting him put his hands all over her face. Xellie will do silly things with him too—stealing his toys and removing the blanket from his lap. The two of them take walks together with him holding a lead while she patiently walks beside his wheelchair. Afterwards they may take a nap together, Matthew asleep in his wheelchair and Xellie snoozing with her head in his lap. Xellie does all this, not because she has to, but because she adores Matthew. Princess Xellie genuinely loves being a therapy pony and is always happy to work her magic.

Xellie was nominated by Jan Pollema of Hearts and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center. Learn more about their services at

[Read more: Bella, Therapy Horse of the Year Runner-Up]

[Read more: Chica, Therapy Horse of the Year Runner-Up]

[Read more: Silver, Therapy Horse of the Year Runner-Up]

Thank you to Nutrena and Tractor Supply Co. for supporting Hope in the Saddle and supplying the prizes for this contest. 

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