Lazy Days Midnight Lightening

(2002 – )
Owned by Tara Needham
Inducted: 2019


In 2002, when life-long equestrian Tara Needham went on the hunt for a therapy horse partner in Norco, California, what she didn't expect to find was an 8-month-old American Miniature Horse that would dedicate his life to helping others. Standing under 20" tall, the tiny colt had striking markings and a gentle nature about him. His ability to know the difference between being a playful horse who loves to kick up his heels and when to mellow out captured Needham's heart. It was not long until Needham was bringing him home to Mira Loma, California, where he would have the opportunity to touch the lives of many under the name Lazy Days Midnight Lightening, or 'Leo' for short.

Leo began his animal assisted therapy and volunteer career in 2004 when Needham brought him along on a trip to Mulberry Learning Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. While he did attend numerous horse shows and did very well over the years, after witnessing the sheer joy and smiles upon the children's faces, she knew that this was a perfect career choice for Leo and his true calling. With Leo's help, Stampede Of Love was formed in July of 2004.

"Leo helped me learn what joy the unconditional love of an animal can bring to those in need. Especially children and adults of all ages who may not have the opportunity to feel that type of warmth in their current situation," shared Needham.

Continuing to spread happiness and smiles for 12 years following the start of his career, Leo has visited schools, hospitals, nursing homes and various community events all over the country. He has worked with William Shatner, Jeff Foxworthy, Branford Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks and Ken Howard and has assisted with fundraising events for Duke Children's Hospital as well as UNC Children's Hospital. Leo also creates paintings that are donated to foundations, such as Life Rolls On and Voices For Change Gala, to raise money for their perspective causes. As a national advocate for animal assisted therapy, Leo was celebrated by the Breyer Model Horse Collectors Jamboree and a limited-edition model was created in his honor in 2004. The Stampede Of Love team relocated to Raleigh North Carolina in the Fall of 2007.

"Leo has touched the lives of thousands, not only brightening their day and stimulating their minds, but also inspiring others to become involved with miniature horses and animal assisted therapy," said Needham.

In 2017, Leo was retired after discovering that he had severe liver disease. The cause of the disease was not known and veterinarians gave him just two weeks to live. But, to everyone's amazement, little Leo fought back. He gained weight and began to thrive again. In Needham's words, "Leo has miraculously fought back against and survived a disease they said he would not. He is a living miracle and a true ambassador of hope."

Today, Leo still has setbacks from time to time due to his compromised immune system. In the late summer of 2018, he developed a fever of unknown origin, but once again he recovered, proving that he is as tough and determined as they come. To this Needham says, "never underestimate the power of love."

Sixteen years under the care of Needham, Leo now spends his days grazing and lounging in the sunshine of North Carolina. He is happy and spoiled, "as he should be," says Needham. Fully grown at 27" tall, Leo is full of charisma and sass! He is a "smarty pants" with an attitude larger than life. He loves his clothes [blankets], treats, rolling in his stall or in the paddock, his daily routine and most of all, his mama. Leo certainly knows how to work his cuteness!

Stampede Of Love carries on in Leo's honor through his five year old son Kiwi, and his barn mates Lola, Taz and Peaches.

"Leo's my main man. Considering he shouldn't even still be with us, each and every day is my continuous proud moment. He has shown me how to enjoy life, forget about the daily grind and look hopeful for the future while cherishing the past. He is truly a one of a kind. I love getting to guide those that reach out to me about using their own horses in animal assisted therapy. This is such a privilege and I only have one truly special being to thank for thatů Leo."