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Mini-Horses, Ice Cream Truck to Visit SLU As Campus De-Stresses Before Finals


As the countdown begins to spring finals, some four-hoofed therapists will be on hand to help SLU students beat their end-of-semester stress.

Mini-horses visit in December 2018

Miniature horses will be looking for love – and to steal cups of Starbucks or bagels from unwitting devotees – on both ends of campus on Monday, May 6, courtesy of the Department of Public Safety and Department of Campus Recreation and Wellness. Photo by Amelia Flood

The miniature therapy horses who will be on campus Monday, May 6, courtesy of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Department of Campus Recreation and Wellness, are just one of the ways SLU students have to chill out before the start of summer.

‘De-Stress with DPS’  . . . and with Mini-Horses

DPS and Campus Recreation have organized a herd of miniature horses to roam SLU’s campus between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday, May 6. Horses will be looking for love – and to steal cups of Starbucks or bagels from unwitting devotees – on both ends of campus.

The horses from Heartland Mini Hoofs first visited SLU in December when DPS officers organized a de-stress day surprise for students.

“The Saint Louis University Department of Public Safety believes our role is much more than taking care of the physical well-being of our students,” Mike Otten, security manager at Chaifetz Arena and organizer of the December visit, explained at the time. “Caring for the whole person, including their mental health, is crucial to the development of these young men and women that we serve.”

Heartland Mini Hoofs is based in Taylorville, Illinois, and is dedicated to “bringing happiness, healing, rehabilitation and comfort to others,” by utilizing miniature horses as therapy animals.”

Students who take time to meet the therapy horses can also get a voucher for goodies from the Street Dogz food truck from their accompanying DPS officers.

DPS regularly hosts its “De-Stress with DPS” events, including karaoke nights with public safety officers and coffee and cocoa pop-ups. DPS also gets involved with SLU’s popular Miracle Network Dance Marathon, dancing and distributing stuffed animals to kids. The department has been active in supporting the Special Olympics, even plunging into frigid waters to raise funds for the cause. Most recently, the department has supported SLU's student-led campus food resource, Billiken Bounty.

Ice Cream Truck 

While Drs. Fred and Fran Pestello will be in Spain for the Madrid Commencement ceremony during finals, they have arranged for an ice cream truck to come to campus and provide free treats to students. Cool Times Ice Cream will be on campus Tuesday, May 7, for study day.

The truck can be found at the following locations:

Massages, Henna Artistry and More to Master Finals Anxiety

Campus Recreation’s Billikens After Dark program is also set to host an evening “De-Stress Fest,” on Thursday, May 2, in the Wool Ballroom, that featured an array of stress-reducing activities.

Thursday’s festival included opportunities to paint, a massage therapist, henna art, free food, making sugar scrubs, and movie viewing to help Billikens get their minds off finals.

A similar de-stress fest was held during midterms in December 2018 that featured the chance to paint a pottery keepsake.

Students can also take advantage of SLU’s many athletic, intra-mural, fitness and wellness offerings, from swimming laps in the Simon Recreation Center’s pool to walking the track on the southern end of campus to ward off finals woes.

Tips to Keep Calm and to Avoid Contagious Stress

Research by SLU associate professor Tony Buchanan, Ph.D., has shown that stress can be contagious. Group stress contagion, according to a 2012 paper Buchanan co-authored, is likely a function of how human beings evolved.

“If other people can sense stress in you, and can help you with that, that’s good,” he notes. “If they are picking up your stress and getting stressed out themselves, it isn’t always helpful.”


However, the body’s stress response hasn’t evolved to distinguish between the threat posed by a snarling mountain lion and a lap-top meltdown just before a student uploads a final paper to Blackboard.

Being continually stressed and on-edge can take a physical and emotional toll, ranging from headache to long-term health problems.

“The stress system is an ancient system that’s there to get us out of danger,” Buchanan explained. “But the system also reacts to a threat like not doing well on an exam the same way it responds to more serious threats.”

If Puppies Are More Your Speed . . .

Therapy Dogs visit Pius

Other SLU offices and departments, like the University Libraries, also regularly organize therapy dog visits and other stress-busting activities. SLU photo

In addition to the equine therapists coming to campus Monday, man's best friend will be on hand on the second floor of the Pius XII Memorial Library to help students relax.

Therapy dogs from CHAMP Assistance Dogs will be at Pius from 2 to 4 p.m. on Monday, May 6, and again from noon to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7.

According to librarian Martha Allen, who organizes the visits, it's the ninth year the University has brought CHAMP dogs to campus to help students shake off their finals blues.

SLU was the first University in the area to partner with CHAMP, a St. Louis nonprofit that provides skilled therapy animals to those in need and trains and places dogs with programs and organizations that can utilize their special skills, from health care facilities to courthouses to children's advocacy centers.

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications