Therapy horses visit survivors of Newtown, Conn. mass shooting

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    Miniature Horse
    In the wake of tragedy, humans rally in a sense of community to do whatever they can to ease pain and sorrow. A group from Florida is hoping that their specially-trained equines can also contribute to the emotional recovery of survivors in Newtown, Conn.

    The tragic and incomprehensible mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 left families and classmates of the victims with a lot of questions and profound sadness. Grief counselors have been present since day one, but this week they were joined by a team of Miniature Horses from Gentle Carousel Therapy Horses, a non-profit group based in Florida.

    Gentle Carousel’s equine therapists frequently visit schools, hospitals, assisted living facilities and hospice programs where children and adults benefit from relaxed interaction with the animals. The horses are carefully trained over the course of at least two years before they can begin working as therapy animals. Besides being calm and friendly around groups of new people, these horses must learn how to navigate indoor environments. They walk up and down stairs, ride in elevators, and are even housebroken. Gentle Carousel chooses horses with a naturally calm, agreeable temperament and small size to ensure that they won’t be intimidating to the people they visit.

    In Newtown, the horses work with survivors of the shooting, including classmates and students of the victims, victims’ families, and first responders. Animal therapy can be especially soothing for young children, who may not be able to fully comprehend the tragedy.

    “We hope we can bring some fond memories and happiness for that community in Newtown, and allow the children and families to dream of minis and not monsters,” George Garcia-Bengochea, one of Gentle Carousel’s founders told Orlando news station WOGX.

    One of the horses visiting Newtown this week is Magic, a young black-and-white mare owned by Garcia-Bengochea. In 2010, the AARP Magazine named Magic one of the top ten “Most Heroic Pets,” and when put to a vote of the readership, the mini horse came out on top.

    Learn more about Gentle Carousel at their website, Horse-Therapy.org or Facebook.com/TherapyHorses.

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