Miniature Horses Bring Big Smiles


Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses are becoming something of an awe inspiring institution in the United States and abroad. When these tiny therapy horses stroll into hospital wards, even the sickest faces light up with huge grins.

American Valor, future therapy horse named for PO Kenneth Tietjen. Photo: Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses

American Valor, future therapy horse named for PO Kenneth Tietjen. Photo: Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses

Established in 1996, Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses is an all volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit charity that is based on both coasts of the United States (Florida and California) and just outside of Athens, Greece. The charity has another facility in Franklin, TN that is used as a secondary home-base and stepping off point for the tiny travelers.

The therapy horses that are raised and trained by volunteers, are taken to visit hospitals, hospices, assisted living facilities, and some catastrophe sites. The miniature horses have spent time cheering very young children, the elderly, survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes, and child trafficking victims in Washington D.C.

Gentle Carousel also has an award winning literacy program “Reading is Magic” that brings the minis into schools, libraries, and “at risk” youth programs to bring stories to life and ignite the imaginations of young readers. Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses interacted with over 35,000 people this year.

Therapy animals have long been credited with reducing depression, anxiety, fatigue, and chronic pain in a wide range of patients. Many PTSD sufferers are granted therapy animals to assist in daily tasks and recovery because the benefits to them have been so substantial. The Gentle Carousel minis go through an extensive two year training program. They are taught to walk on various surfaces such as stairs and the slippery floors often found in care facilities; to ride quietly on elevators; to work carefully around hospital equipment; and to be impervious to the loud noises associated with hospitals such as alarms, sirens and helicopter noises.

The charity and its miniature horses are garnering some big time attention. Magic, one of Gentle Carousel’s most famed minis, has collected a whole host of much deserved awards. She has been named by TIME Magazine as one of History’s Ten Most Courageous Animals (the only living animal selected), AARP’s Most Heroic Pet in America, as Readers Digest/Americantowns Power of One Hero, one of the Daily Mirror‘s 7 Most Notable Animals Heroes (UK), she won the prestigious E.T. York Distinguished Service Award, one of Newsweek/The Daily Beast‘s Ten Most Heroic Animals, and one of two Gentle Carousel horses honored as a 2014 Breyer model horses.

Magic gained her fame after a 2010 visit to an assisted living facility. While there, she went to see a three year resident who had never said a word. The woman laid eyes on Magic and exclaimed, “Isn’t she beautiful?” And the seal was broken. The woman continued to communicate from that point on. The emotional staff contacted the AARP to tell them the story, earning Magic her first award and the attention of a nation.

Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses is an organization that is dedicated to giving back, and honoring the service men and women who have given their lives for their country. One of their tiny foals, born on the 4th of July of this year, was named American Valor in honor of one of the heroic officers who gave his life in the September 11 terror attacks — a Port Authority officer named Kenneth Tietjen, who happened to share a birthday with the tiny horse. In a world that is being torn apart by violence and greed, that is punctuated with shootings, riots, and illness, Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses are working to give back, to heal, and to restore hope.

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