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Therapy Program

Mini Therapy Horses works closely with hospitals, facilities and other organizations across Los Angeles to provide equine assisted therapy/equine assisted activity (EAT/EAA) to those who need it most. Whether it's a patient at Shriners Hospital for Children or a veteran at the VA Hospital, Mini Therapy Horses brings hope and healing to those in need. Studies have shown that equine assisted therapy/equine assisted activity (EAT/EAA) improves physical and mental health, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, reduces anxiety, promotes conversation, improves self esteem and confidence, increases emotional stability and social connections and helps build trust and empathy. MTH is leading the way when it comes to utilizing mini therapy horses in EAT/EAA.

Victoria Nodiff-Netanel kneeled beside mini horse Willow while they visit with a young female patient and her caregiver.

We have created a set of training and safety standards that far exceed those of traditional animal assisted therapy organizations. All of our horses are trained with safety in mind. They are able to go up/down stairs, ride in elevators, are desensitized to all surroundings they might encounter on any given visit and are potty trained. Under the steady lead of their handlers, our horses are able to safely navigate their environment, whether it’s maneuvering around delicate medical equipment at a patient's bedside or standing carefully next to a wheelchair. In addition to basic commands, our horses are also trained to do tricks. They smile, give high fives, play the keyboard and, the biggest crowd pleaser of them all, perform “Hi Ho Silver,” where they stand up on their back legs. When we teach the patients how to do these commands using their voice or a hand motion, the tricks serve as a tool that connects them to the horse. Engaging in this activity helps the patient instantly feel more confident, accomplished and bonded.

Victoria Nodiff-Netanel and mini horse Louise comfort a young boy as he is fit for a device for his hand by the staff at Shriners for Children's Southern California.

To understand the impact of our work, one needs to look no further than a recent interaction we had with a patient at Shriners Hospital for Children. At a visit earlier this year, we were asked by the staff if we could help comfort a patient while he was being fitted for an orthopedic device for his hand. Typically, this procedure can be somewhat painful and, for some children, even traumatic. Knowing she had work to do, our sweet mini horse, Louise, snuggled right up to the patient. He placed his right hand on her mane as the staff began the painful fitting process on his left hand. During the procedure, the child stayed wholly focused on Louise, petting her soft coat and never once taking his eyes off of her. Before he knew it, the procedure was over and he was smiling and laughing. Louise’s comforting presence and kind eyes were all the distraction necessary to get him through that challenge. Sometimes watching our mini girls work feels like watching a miracle happen.

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