Students with autism at Park View High School in Sterling, Virginia, found comfort from an unexpected source — a horse.
A miniature horse, to be precise, by the name of Fiona Fudge. When the pint-size equine hoofed it their classroom on Monday wearing flowered hair pieces and pink hoof guards, the students suddenly felt at ease.
In 2008, Darcy Woessner founded Project Horse, a program that connects people in need of therapy with rehabilitated rescue horses. Through it she has been bringing horses to schools for the past three years.
Fiona Fudge is one of three members on Project Horse's Mobile Minis team, which travels to schools across the region bringing comfort to students with special needs or teens struggling with depression.
Lauren Kloman, Park View High School's autism teacher, was hesitant at first; she didn't know what to expect. But she has already seen a change in her students.
"They're more competent," Kloman told NBC affiliate NBC4. "They work better as a team."
This isn't the first time Project Horse has come to the Virginia high school. Alumna Amber Pompell says the program changed her life and brought her peers "joy, lots of joy."
"I seemed to open up a little more," Pompell told NBC4. "I was able to cope with my anxiety better."
From the moment each student reached their arm out to say hello to their new friend, there was an instant connection.