For New York hospital's patients, miniature horses are a strong medicine

Thu Mar 17, 2016 5:22am EDT
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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some of the most powerful medicine delivered to young patients at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Wednesday came in a package less than 32 inches tall and with a tail.

Honor, a 10-month-old colt with Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, trotted into the hearts of dozens of children and teens being treated at the Manhattan hospital.

Just a handful of young patients were well enough to secure their doctors' permission to meet Honor in person in a hospital playroom, while others watched him from their beds, viewing an internal television broadcast in their rooms and isolation units.

Maria Benitez, who is 19 but looks much younger, broke into a smile when Honor pranced into the playroom. The hospital declined to elaborate on details of Benitez's medical condition, saying only she is currently being treated as an outpatient.

While Maria said her favorite animal is a horse, this one was quite different from what she expected.

"He's smaller," Maria whispered, staring at the chestnut horse with black eyes.

"They are little horses, but they have big jobs," said Jorge Garcia-Bengochea, co-founder of Gentle Carousel.

Miniature horses have comforted trauma victims after such tragedies as the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the 2013 tornadoes that devastated Oklahoma and the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. They also work with families of police officers who have died in the line of duty.   Continued...

Handler Jorge Garcia-Bengochea holds Honor, a miniature therapy horse from Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, as they visit with patients at the Kravis Children's Hospital at Mount Sinai in the Manhattan borough of New York City, March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar