Those Who Help Others Sometimes Need a little Help Themselves

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by Trish Utter

I have known the founders of Gentle Carousel, Jorge and Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, for years. Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses is an award winning, all volunteer 501(c)(3) charity. They travel the country with their miniature therapy horses and help those that cannot help themselves. The Garcia-Bengochea’s started Gentle Carousel when they found that most horse therapy programs were designed so that people had to visit them, but as many are confined to a hospital bed, that would be nearly impossible. Their unique and well trained miniature horses that visit trauma victims and patients on location have become a huge hit all over the U.S.

It was a total shock when I turned on the news and saw that two of the Garcia-Bengochea’s beloved horses had been ripped apart and killed by roaming dogs! The couple live in the country. In rural areas, it has become a big problem with other land owners who allow their dogs to roam free. Even a small dog can cause a stampede of livestock. In this case, it had devastating results. I cannot imagine waking up to find your beloved animals mauled to death. One of the horses that survived was treated by a local vet, but later passed away from the injuries it received. A ‘Go Fund Me’ page has been set up to pay for the vet bills. Replacing these precious horses that have had years of specialized training is no easy task.

Gentle Carousel is now in its 20th year. As you can imagine, it is hard to celebrate. Over the past 20 years, Gentle Carousel have helped over 25,000 adults and children each year, that have suffered acts of violence, devastating health issues or other catastrophic events. Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses have comforted survivors and first responders of the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL. They have also helped the tornado survivors of Moore, OK, victims of the fires in Gatlinburg, TN, child trafficking victims in Washington, D.C., children in Syrian refugee camps in Greece and thousands of patients in children’s and veteran’s hospitals across the country.

Imagine driving on the highway next to an SUV, when you see a horse’s head leaning out of the passenger window! Yes, not a dog, but a miniature horse on its way to visit patients at a hospital! These horses are approximately knee height and totally adorable. The horses travel in horse trailers, private planes, and commercial airliners and sometimes in the Garcia-Bengochea’s SUV.

The therapy horses work with medical professionals in oncology units, the ICU, and with occupational, speech and physical therapists as part of the treatment for patients who have suffered strokes, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, amputations and burns. Working indoors would be a challenge for any horse, but the therapy horses make it look easy thanks to the years of training they each receive. The horses walk up and down steps, ride in elevators, walk on unusual floor surfaces and carefully move around hospital equipment. They stay calm when there are crowds, cameras or unexpected sounds like ambulances, alarms and hospital helicopters… and yes, they are house trained. Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses also work inside schools and libraries, with mentoring programs, at literacy events and at education resource centers in high crime neighborhoods. Gentle Carousel’s literacy program Reading Is Magic “brings books to life” for young readers with a special focus on at-risk readers.

The teams of therapy horses take their special love where it is needed most. Services are provided free of charge and the charity receives no government funding. The work of Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses is supported by people who want to help make dreams come true. Ask your friends, your workplace or an organization that you belong to if they would like to sponsor a program or an individual therapy horse. Request a speaker so you can learn more.

If you would like to donate to Gentle Carousel visit www.GentleCarousel.com or go to, Go Fund Me www.gofundme.com/tiny-therapy-horses-need-your-help.

Gentle Carousel Miniature
Therapy Horses
www.Horse-Therapy.org
352-226-9009

 

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