When Sophie Silagy’s Welsh pony, Wizard, was diagnosed with a serious illness, the homeschooled 10-year-old girl determined to do whatever she could to help him. So she launched her own business.
Sophie’s journey toward becoming a young entrepreneur started with her spending time at the stables with her older sister.
“I sort of grew up around horses,” Sophie explains. She began riding at age 5.
Her equine enthusiasm became serious enough that, two years ago, Sophie’s parents made her a Christmas present of Wizard, the pony she had been riding for some time during lessons.
Soon afterward, however, Wizard began displaying disturbing symptoms.
“He would limp,” recalls Sophie’s mother, Lisa Silagy. “He was in too much pain to be ridden.”
Blood tests and X-rays revealed that Wizard was suffering from several serious ailments. He had Cushing’s disease, a hormone disorder caused by a growth on his pituitary gland, and insulin resistance, which is akin to diabetes in humans.
Wizard’s ailments were complicated by yet another condition which is common among well-loved ponies whose owners can’t resist slipping them sweet treats. He was overweight.
The veterinarian’s prescriptions, consequently, included a disappointing mandate.
As Lisa explains, Wizard’s “new medication addressed the Cushing’s, but then we had to address the diabetes.”
That meant Sophie had to all but eliminate sugary foods from Wizard’s diet. As it turned out, this was easier said than done.
“I looked for other treats,” she says. “But none of them were what I wanted for Wizard.”
That’s when she decided to create her own horse snacks.
“She went through rounds and rounds of experimenting,” Lisa says.
Developing the right recipe started with identifying the best ingredients. Sophie settled on a base of oats and whole wheat flavored with add-ins such as apples or shredded carrots. She mixes in just enough light sweetener to form a coarse and sticky dough.
The horse pastries are then slow-baked to eliminate moisture. Too much water, Lisa explained, can promote mold and cause the snacks to spoil quickly. Finally, the finished treats are packaged in waxed paper bags to extend their shelf life.
Sophie has developed several flavors. Her popular deluxe treats even feature a light glaze made from peppermint extract and confectioner’s sugar, which apparently tempts the tastebuds of more than just horses.
“One of my human friends at the barn eats them and thinks they’re pretty good,” says Sophie.
Most importantly, the treats have become part of a healthy diet that has made a big difference to Wizard.
“He’s doing really well right now,” says Sophie, who noted that she has been able to resume riding him. “He’s very happy.”
Lisa adds that their veterinarian “mentioned how good Wizard looks.” With medication, exercise and proper nutrition, “he can have a nice long life.”
Meanwhile, Sophie has been marketing treats at her stable, horse shows, in a tack shop and on Facebook. Though her business is still small, her goal is to earn enough to donate to a horse rescue organization.
Lisa says that despite having to rearrange the family’s homeschooling schedule as Sophie “takes over the kitchen” every few weeks to make new batches of snacks, she’s pleased to help her daughter deal with a crisis in such a mature and forward-thinking way.
As Lisa wrote in an email describing the birth of Sophie’s Stable Snacks: “Out of a personal need came an opportunity to bless others with a natural horse treat, and more importantly, to let a little kid work out a way to solve a problem close to her heart.”
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: First graphic design by Anna Soltis; other images courtesy of Silagy family.