Spotlight on horse world’s equine therapy heroes

Magic visits a friend at the Ronald McDonald House
Magic visits a friend at a Ronald McDonald House

A popular equine podcast is to feature the work of therapy horses who offer their own brand of healing to those in need, from hospitals to scenes of disasters.

Elise Gaston Chand’s Because of Horses podcast is this week spotlighting Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, who do everything from work with occupational, physical and speech therapists to offering comfort at the scenes of traumatic events such as natural disasters, violence or loss.

Magic is one of the most famous of Gentle Carousel’s horses. Named by Time magazine as one of “History’s 10 Most Courageous Animals,” Magic is a member of both the Florida Veterinary Medical Association and the USEF/Equus Foundation Halls of Fame. Most recently, she was inducted as an official deputy with the Alachua County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office.

For more than 20 years, the therapy horses have worked in hospitals and hospices, as well as at community tragedies from the shooting at Sandy Hook to those dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Based in Gainesville, Florida and founded in 1996, the nonprofit organisation is supported entirely by volunteers, donations and grants.

Little Hero at a memorial for the Pulse nightclub, the scene of a mass shooting in 2016.

Gentle Carousel equine therapists must complete a two-year training protocol which includes learning how to walk up and down stairs, ride in elevators, navigate hospital and camera equipment, and maneuver in small rooms. All are house trained and desensitized to sounds such as alarms, sirens and helicopters.

Through their literacy program “Reading is Magic,” Gentle Carousel therapy horses are also brought into schools, at-risk youth programs, literacy events and libraries. Several Gentle Carousel horses look like equine characters in popular children’s books, while others are actual characters in books the children are reading.

Each week, Elise Gaston Chand hosts conversations with, for and about horses, horse-people and the equestrian life. Because of Horses shares the personal stories, challenges, triumphs and expert insights, of notable equestrians, as well as timely topics and information from around the globe.

Gentle Carousel therapy horse Dream with a young friend.
Gentle Carousel therapy horse Dream with a young friend.

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