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Bigger winner than in Preakness

His name is Merlin and he’s a horse and he’s a big winner.

But not in the “down the stretch they come,” wearing a blanket of black-eyed Susans, going off at 5-2 odds kind of way. Merlin has won many a heart in his career, and now he’s been honored for it.

Merlin, a 32-year-old Morgan gelding, on Tuesday received the Touch of Class award from the Maryland Horse Industry Board for his work as a therapeutic riding mount at the Rose of Sharon Equestrian School in Glen Arm. He has helped hundreds of special needs adults and children deal with emotional issues. And this isn’t Merlin’s first award. Earlier this year, he was named the American Morgan Horse Association’s National Therapy Horse of the Year.

“In the stable, there is something about Merlin’s presence that helps people in emotional distress bring their pain to the surface and release it in a wash of tears,” said Joan Marie Twining, founder and executive director of Rose of Sharon. “Dozens of people over the years have commented on how much better they feel after just spending time with him. I am humbled by his continued willingness to choose to do the work we are doing despite the predictable routine and the ravages of age. He’s a horse with special needs himself now, but he still takes himself and his work pretty seriously.”

Merlin is on his second career. He arrived at Rose of Sharon at 18 after he was done being a show horse and became the school’s first therapeutic horse.

“It is a privilege to be here today with this gifted and caring horse who has quietly gone about his business of helping people and making a real difference in the lives of people in need, especially special needs children and adults,” said MHIB Chairman Jim Steele. “Merlin represents not only the very best of the equine species, he is truly a role model for all of us to emulate.”

Click here for more information about the Rose of Sharon school.