You may have heard of dogs being used in therapy programs, but a unique program that uses miniature horses recently paid a visit to children in Middle Tennessee.
Each year, the Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses visit more than 25,000 children and adults. They stop by hospitals and hospice programs, and they just finished up a visit to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.
"There's something about a horse walking into a hospital, walking into a room, that makes people feel better. It lowers blood pressure, releases endorphins. It's a happy moment - a magical moment," said Gentle Carousel Executive Director Jorge Garcia-Bengochea.
It can be a nice break from what is often a very difficult situation for many young patients and their families.
The Gentle Carousel team is based out of Gainesville, FL, and all of the horses go through two years of training before they hit the road.
"They learn to walk on different surfaces, ride up elevators, go up a few flights of stairs - things like that. They're used to being around hospital equipment and a lot of sights and sounds unusual to a horse," Garcia-Bengochea said.
Once they're ready, they travel to people who can't travel themselves. And they are allowed inside areas typically reserved for doctors and nurses.
"The kids feel like it's a magical moment. They're these little horses that understand what they are going through and it just relieves stress," Garcia-Bengochea said.
The therapy horses don't just travel to hospitals. Earlier this year, they were in Oklahoma after the devastating tornado outbreak. And last year, they visited Newtown, CT, following the school shooting.
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