It has been proven that touch is a very important aspect in the nourishment of the human mind. There are, however, some instances where touch from another human is considered unacceptable for whatever emotional or psychological reason, but the touch of an animal is welcomed. Animals bring warmth and contentment into a place (like hospitals) where ordinarily touch is invasive or not pleasant. Studies show that nursing homes and assisted living housing communities can benefit greatly from pets as therapy animals. Not only does petting an animal reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, it also encourages socialization. There is more laughter and interaction among residents and staff when animals are present, and often family members also come to visit on pet therapy day.
So why do we use horses?
Therapy using animals increases the attention and willingness to work. If the patient is working with Physical Therapy the patients will be motivated by getting to walk along beside the horse. If the patient is working with Occupational Therapy then the patient can get needed therapy while walking the horse by holding onto and controlling the lead rope. They can also get their therapy by simply petting or grooming the horse.
If you think about it, most people of age to be in nursing homes and assisted living facilities right now have, at some point in their lives, relied on horses! People in their 70s, 80s, and 90s have used horses to do work plowing fields. Many of them have ridden horses as a means of transportation, or used horse drawn wagons. Many of the people who have relied on horses at one point in their life, see them as a fond memory and relate them to feelings of freedom and strength. The touch, the smell, their fingers in the horses mane all conjure up emotions, memories of youth, and ultimately, a great story from the past!
When it comes to children's hospitals, what child has never wanted to be a cowboy or cowgirl? Most every little girl's dream is having a pony, and the small stature of the horses make them easy to hug without being intimidating. Most children have never had a bad experience on a horse. Therefore, there is no common fear of miniature horses, as there is in dogs.
Miniature horses are well accepted by young and old alike and they are non-judgmental and accepting of all kinds of people, in almost any situation.