Horse News

Mini Horses En Route to Oklahoma to Offer Therapy to Tornado Victims

Source: Marjorie Nunez of the Independent Florida Alligator

“When you’re sick, to see a real horse — it’s a great thing”

Picture courtesy of Gentle Carousel Therapy Horses

Just one week after experiencing devastating loss, survivors of the Oklahoma tornado will be able to take comfort in special visitors from Gainesville: three miniature therapy horses.

The horses of Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, a volunteer-based nonprofit charity, began their journey to Moore, Okla., in a truck and horse trailer.

 The group will be in Oklahoma for about a week, said Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, the education director of Gentle Carousel.

The organization was not planning to visit Oklahoma, she said, but less than two weeks after a group of horses returned from visiting Newtown, Conn., calls came pouring in from families, government officials and first responders in Oklahoma.

After the Oklahoma community proposed a therapy plan that would meet its needs, Gentle Carousel decided to make the trip. But Garcia-Bengochea said the team will also stay flexible to meet needs as they arise.

“Even though they’re setting up particular things for us, it’s all pretty fluid,” Garcia-Bengochea said.

The horses will visit a makeshift shelter set up in a college gym to interact with survivors, she said.

On trips, Garcia-Bengochea said, the horses typically dress up to visit families, sporting sparkles in their manes and tails.

She said she expects the horses’ visit to Oklahoma to help the healing process for individuals in the community.

One time, a child with a brain tumor asked to see a horse.

When the horse came into the child’s room, the child said, “She can see inside my soul.”

Gentle Carousel started about 15 years ago, originally working with severely abused children.

The charity has been mentioned in a Broadway show by Hugh Jackman, featured by CNN, USA Today and Time magazine, which named therapy horse Magic one of history’s top 10 most heroic animals.

Ocala, Lake City and Gainesville are home for the horses when the charity is not traveling.

In February, they paired up with UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital, said Andrea Gilbert, a Shands Rehab occupational therapist who set up the connection.

The partnership started on Valentine’s Day, and the horses’ first visit to the hospital was so successful it became a weekly occurrence, Gilbert said.

During their visits, Gilbert said, the horses help patients, and the patients help the horses.

“There’s a correlation between what our patients are going through and what the baby horses are going through,” Gilbert said.

While extensive planning goes into coordinating the horses’ long trips, Garcia-Bengochea said she finds the process well worth the effort.

“When you’re sick, to see a real horse — it’s a great thing,” she said.

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10 replies »


    10th of the top 10 but number 1 is the sled dog Togo that helped deliver the diphtheria serum to Nome, Alaska in 1925 saving many lives. This run inspired the modern day Iditarod sled dog race held every year in March.

    So as you can see this is not a list of your average everyday hero’s. These guys are truly special.

    God Bless Gentle Carousel and the victims of the Oklahoma tornado!


  2. What a great story!…..Therapy horses…..Love it……Hats off to them for doing this for the people in


  3. I truly understand this thought from the above article:

    One time, a child with a brain tumor asked to see a horse.

    When the horse came into the child’s room, the child said, “She can see inside my soul.”


  4. I love The Gentle Carousel program. It really is a great thing. I check out their FB page every day. And I think it is great that mini horses are being used for the blind and disabled too. Horses are all around beings, very versatile. I think they will be quite a big blessing in OK and make quite an impact.


  5. Nice sentiment but i would not taker my horses into Oklahoma under any circumstances. They believe horses are a food source. I believe they are companions, not too be slaughtered and eaten.


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