Submitted photo: Zach McKay, co-owner of Happy Hooves, leads a little girl on one of the petting zoo’s mini horses.

Happy Hooves, happy kids at petting zoo

Every little boy or girl may dream of having a pony or their first pet, but circumstances are not always achievable. Zach and Angelique McKay have found a way to make that dream come true.

After Zach rescued a mini pony named Cash two years ago, his mission began. Shortly after, he acquired some goats from a friend he worked with that was going through a surgery. Then Zach was told of a farmer who had a donkey which was running calves through fencing. And four more mini horses were obtained from another person in Dillsboro who was having surgery.

So in January 2016, Zach came up with the idea of having a mobile petting zoo and “Happy Hooves Petting Zoo and Rescue LLC” was created, with his wife Angelique given credit for creating the name.

The McKays own a small farm on Searcy Ridge near Patriot, and have two children, Jachoby, almost 9, and Marielee, 5, who both take on the daily chores of feeding and watering. Jachoby is a first year 4-H member and will be showing goats, rabbits and collections.

The mobile petting zoo is available for birthday parties, and other events including company picnics, fund raisers, sales events and grand openings.

When Zach was researching the cost from the Internet, he found a place in Georgetown that charged a fee of $600 for two hours. Knowing that was unreasonable and wanting to make his fees cost efficient, he charges $150 for two hours and is registered with the state and is insured.

The animals are loaded up and brought to the occasion where Zach sets up the pens, saddles up the horses for pony rides, and lets the children and adults have their dreams fulfilled for an afternoon of creating memories.

Pictures can also be obtained on the side to share with family members far away.

Zach and Angelique have around 40 animals which includes five miniature ponies, three miniature donkeys, an Alpaca, four pot belly pigs, six goats including three Pygmies, one Nigerian Dwarf and two Angorians, one sheep and a collection of chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits and a bearded dragon.

The couple enjoy the time it takes to bring moments of joy to the events which they are invited to attend.

“I like seeing the faces of kids when they are riding and being happy,” said Zach. No problems have occurred at any of their festivities and “everyone is pretty calm,” he said.

Zach has taught himself to trim the hooves of his animals from watching youtube, which alleviates some of the costs incurred from running his mobile zoo.