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Small but mighty miniature horses offer therapy and hope

From dogs and rabbits, to guinea pigs and even birds, pet therapy animals come in all shapes and sizes. But volunteer-based organization Mane in Heaven keeps and trains miniature therapy horses, which they take to schools and hospitals to offer their therapeutic support. Nick Blumberg, from our partner station WTTW in Chicago, reports on the pint-sized equine mission.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    From dogs and rabbits, to guinea pigs and even birds, pet therapy animals come in all shapes and sizes. Nick Blumberg, from our partner station WTTW in Chicago, has this report on a pint-sized equine therapeutic mission that is bringing happiness to those in need.

  • Nick Blumberg:

    These are American Miniature horses.

  • Dina Morgan:

    They're non intimidating, they're tiny, they're magical looking.

  • Nick Blumberg:

    And they're the, ahem, main attraction of the nonprofit Mane in Heaven. (That's m-a-n-e.)

  • Dina Morgan:

    We take our adorable little miniature therapy horses to hospitals, rehab centers, nursing homes. Our goal and our mission is to just bring a little bit of happiness and comfort and joy to those in need.

  • Nick Blumberg:

    Founded in 2012, Mane in Heaven is an all-volunteer organization based at a private farm in Barrington.

  • Danielle McCready:

    We work with the horses four days a week. We do training and visits, so if we're not on a visit, we're training here.

  • Dina Morgan:

    They have to learn their commands. They have to be used to people hugging them and petting them. Learning elevators, learning different floor surfaces.

  • Nick Blumberg:

    And, volunteers have to learn answers to frequently asked questions. No, they haven't been shrunken down. They're not ponies. And yes, they're full grown.

  • Dina Morgan:

    We joke that they might get wider, but they won't get any taller.

  • Nick Blumberg:

    Another common question: why are they wearing shoes?

  • Dina Morgan:

    First of all, they do prevent them slipping on the floor. // Also good for infection control. Plus they just look pretty darn cute. So that's the other reason why.

  • Nick Blumberg:

    These three little guys get to enjoy a relaxing day out in their paddock, but Tinkerbell and Hope are getting loaded up into their bus — a mini bus, of course — and we're headed to a Shriners Hospital for a visit.

  • Dina Morgan:

    I can't tell you how fulfilling it is when you walk into into a hospital room or walk into a school and see these great big smiles, people's eyes get wide, and the laughter.

  • Nick Blumberg:

    But they're not just entertainment. Sometimes, the horses provide motivation for young patients who are scared to get their blood drawn or who are working to improve their walking.

  • Danielle McCready:

    We'll put another lead on the horse and the kids can help us walk and learn commands, like walk and whoa. It's really powerful to see these kids engage with these little guys and see that they're connecting and the horses are listening when they're asking for them to do something.

  • Nick Blumberg:

    While Mane in Heaven asks for donations, it doesn't charge for its visits. It's made about 60 visits so far this year. Though the minis share a therapeutic mission, they all have different personalities.

  • Danielle McCready:

    Tinkerbell is super curious. Spirit is very spiritful. Hope is very sweet and gentle. But in general they're all very calm, very comforting, and they're very intuitive.

  • Nick Blumberg:

    They make visits all over the Chicago area, so keep your eyes open for them…but look down.

  • Danielle McCready:

    What are you doing? I don't have anything in my pocket. That's a microphone that's in my pocket.

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