Young Girl’s Determination—and a Boost from the ASPCA—Leads to Her Dream Horse

May 29, 2024


For years, sisters Ava and Ilana T. worked diligently to earn money so they could each adopt a horse.

“We sold eggs from our family farm, did computer work for our dad’s business and asked for money on Christmas and birthdays,” says Ava, 11.

Ilana, 12, found her horse first: a Welsh Cob pony named Fig, whom she adopted from a friend who lives near the family’s West Virginia farm. About a month later, Ava was flipping through Horse Illustrated when she read an article titled “ASPCA’s Reimagining Racers Helps Retired Racehorses.”

The story mentioned the website, which features profiles of adoptable horses available nationwide from the ASPCA and our Right Horse Adoption Partners.

“I visited the site to see if any of the horses interested me,” says Ava. “As it turned out, the very first horse, at the top of the page, was a 14-hands-high Arabian, Selle Français, and Missouri Fox Trotter mix named Little Man, available for adoption from the ASPCA. I knew I wanted to adopt him.”

Ava and Little Man, left, with Ilana and Fig.

Little Man was at the ASPCA Equine Transition and Adoption Center (ETAC) near Oklahoma City. When Ava told her mother, Lauren, that she had found her horse so quickly, Lauren was skeptical.

“I said, ‘I don’t think so, Ava,’ because she hadn’t looked at any others,” Lauren says. “But she was certain.”

Overcoming Obstacles

This happy ending wasn’t without its challenges, but Ava was determined.

“First off, Little Man was in Oklahoma, and we were more than 1,000 miles away,” Ava explains. “Secondly, he wasn’t saddle-trained, which meant I would have to train him myself. Still, I thought that giving this horse a try would be an adventure, so I decided to contact the ASPCA.” Ava filled out an online inquiry and spoke by phone with Libby Hanon, Equine Adoption and Marketing Specialist at ETAC.

Little Man at ETAC with the ASPCA’s Kylie McGarity, Equine Behavior and Training Specialist

Little Man had been relinquished by his former owners a few months before because they could no longer care for him. “He was in good health; his only challenge was that he’d never been ridden,” says Libby, who answered Ava’s questions and offered her family access to the ASPCA’s Horse Adoption Express (HAE) program, which provides a $500 stipend to help offset the cost of horse transport for far-away adopters and makes long-distance adoptions feasible.

ETAC used technology to introduce Ava to Little Man; on a FaceTime call, Ava and her parents were able not only to see Little Man in real time but to inspect his hooves and teeth and watch how he interacted with people.

“When I saw Little Man, I knew we would be friends,” Ava says.

Road Trip to Adoption

Ava and her father, Wes, decided to drive to Oklahoma and pick up Little Man themselves. They drove for three days through five states, arriving in El Reno, Oklahoma, on August 6, 2023. ETAC is located at an ASPCA Partner facility, Nexus Equine, which also trains and places equines up for adoption.


“The road trip was such an adventure,” Ava recalls. “Along the way, any time we had a question, Libby was always available. When we arrived, we were impressed by how clean and beautiful the stables were. The people there were friendly and helpful.”

To help coax Little Man into the horse trailer for the ride home, Kylie McGarity, Equine Behavior and Training Specialist, gave Ava tips to help him overcome his initial fear of the vehicle. Kylie also provided supplies and treats for the two-day journey back to West Virginia.

A New Life

Ava and her family moved from New Jersey to a 300-acre farm, nestled in the hills of Appalachia in Summers County, three years ago.


Ava’s family shares the farm with her paternal grandparents, uncle, aunt and cousins, who have their own homes on the property—which is also home to 80 chickens, 10 goats, four cows, three dogs, several cats and now, two horses!

Ava and Ilana are busy training Fig and Little Man and are “almost in the same place with their horses,” Lauren adds. Ilana can ride Fig, and Ava can put a saddle on Little Man and sit on him.


Any time she has questions, Ava knows she can reach out to Libby and the ETAC team.

“We appreciate the support network and are glad we chose to adopt through My Right Horse,” Lauren says.

For Ava, adopting Little Man is a dream come true. They are perfect examples of how equine adoption can make life-changing matches, and their journey proves the right horse is never in the wrong place.


Feeling inspired and ready to adopt a horse of your own? Visit to browse hundreds of adoptable horses nationwide by breed, age or discipline.