Miniature Horses as Therapy Animals
Learn about these pint-sized horses providing comfort to adults and children in hospitals and hospice programs, and members of law enforcement and their families who have experienced traumatic events.
by Jocelyn Pierce
Studies have shown the health benefits of owning pets. They have been known to help reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and decrease depression. Because of this, animals are commonly used as therapy in hospitals, elderly housing, and hospice programs.
Similarly, research has shown that equine assisted activities and therapy are effective in treating individuals with a wide range of disabilities and individual needs. When most people think of equine assisted activities, they think of therapeutic riding programs, in which individuals interact with horses and may also ride them. It makes sense, therefore that miniature horses make fitting therapy animals in a hospital or hospice setting.
Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity that has been active since 1996 and is based out of Florida. Their teams of miniature horses visit over 45,000 adults and children each year inside hospitals, hospice programs, and members of law enforcement and their families who have experienced traumatic events.
About Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses
Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses team with medical professionals in oncology units, the ICU, with veterans in inpatient psychiatric wards and with occupational, speech and physical therapists as part of the treatment teams with patients who have suffered strokes, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, amputations and burns. Their work may be as simple as inspiring a patient in the therapy gym, or to walk with patients who are learning how to use adaptive equipment like walkers and wheelchairs.
Gentle Carousel’s teams have offered their help and support to the children and first responders of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, North Carolina, to the survivors of the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, and the San Bernardino shooting,
Magic, almost certainly Gentle Carousel’s most famous therapy horse, works inside children’s and veterans’ hospitals throughout the country. He has received numerous honors from various organizations, including TIME magazine, AARP, and the United States Equestrian Federation.
Training Therapy Horses
Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses go through at least a two-year basic training program. The horses must be comfortable walking through any hospital, with crowds of people, and unfamiliar sights and sounds. The younger therapy horses become accustomed to the sights and sounds of a hospital by working in an actual hospital setting.
Therapy horses must be able to walk up and down steps, ride in elevators, and walk on unusual floor surfaces. They must be able to carefully and quietly move around hospital equipment, sometimes in small patient rooms, and be able to react appropriately to unexpected noise such as ambulances, alarms, and helicopters.
These miniature horses bring joy and comfort to those who feel a special connection to the animals, or who may miss their pets they’ve had to leave at home. Miniature therapy horses can reach many of those who benefit from their company, including the elderly, terminally ill, children with developmental disabilities as well as many others.
For more information and examples about how Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses help check out these videos: