Tiny Horses Bring Big Smiles
They've received national attention, making appearances in movies, magazines and on TV. But these equestrian stars spend most of their time trotting around North Central Florida.
Throughout the year and especially at Christmas, The Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses go to events around North Central Florida and they aren't confined to the range, or even the outdoors.
Debbie and Jorge Garcia-Bengochea of High Springs started working with miniature horses eight years ago, to teach their foster children how to trust again. Debbie said, "There's something about a horse walking into a room when a child is sick, real horses."
Now, they have 22 tiny therapy horses that visit more than 6,000 people a year. Debbie said, "The horses visit with everyone from children in hospice and hospitals to seniors in nursing homes, assisted living facilities."
Debbie said the horses are able to connect with people no matter what they're going through. She said, "We have children who contact us and doctors who contact us that say they'll only get out of bed for "magic," they'll only get out of bed for their favorite horse."
The horses are trained for two years, to be able to go just about anywhere. Debbie said, "They need to be able to walk up and down stairs, ride in elevators, work around hospital equipment and not be budged as you saw today by any kind of noise or surprises that can happen to them."
But when the horses are "off duty" they're are allowed to run wild. Jorge said, "They bring out the best in people, so I love taking care of the horses, spending time with them. They each have their own personality and I enjoy getting to know each one and working with each one and introducing them to people who can appreciate their love and they're just being adorable...they're great horses."
The horses have an affect on people everywhere they go.
Art Forgey from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office said, "Just the calming that these horses have and to be able to be that close and touch something that small is just incredible. It is a true therapy."
Debbie and Jorge said they have found a true calling. Jorge said, "Our vision is to continue doing this work and to continue having volunteers do this work even when we're no longer able to and the horses are coming along to visit with us. You know, we envision this going on in the area long since we're gone."
The organization relies on donations and volunteers. For more information about how you can help continue their work visit their website: http://www.horse-therapy.org/
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