Honor the miniature horse outperforms My Little Pony when it comes to cheering up the sick.So it appeared Thursday, when 9-month-old Honor trotted into the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai, his mane combed, his horseshoes gleaming.Honor, who weighs 90 pounds and stands less than 3 feet tall (he won’t grow much taller), is one of 25 miniature horses owned by Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, which visits 45,000 sick children and adults each year.
All animals are trained for two years to become accustomed to human contact, including riding in elevators and entering rooms.Honor will join a unit of first responders to comfort people in times of crisis after completing that course with honors.
“Everyone seems to light up when an animal walks into a situation or a room,” says executive director Jorge Garcia-Bengochea.Therapy animals lower blood pressure and increase endorphin levels in patients, he adds, and they also make people happy.This includes 8-year-old Christopher Vasquez, a patient who met and petted Honor last week at Mount Sinai.
“I think it’s really cool that a horse came inside and visited the hospital,” the Queens teen says. “But next time, I want a monkey!”Nieves Guaman, Christopher’s mother, says the encounter brought back fond memories of their homeland.
“We’re from Ecuador, so the horses there are much bigger,” she explains.”However, it makes me happy to see my son smiling.”
The tiny equine is making good progress in his training.”Honor eats all day long — foods like hay and grass are always on the menu,” Garcia-Bengochea explains. “When he needs to use the restroom, he signals with his front right hoof.”Honor lives on a farm in central New Jersey when he is not working.Just don’t feed him a carrot: “It is not the best food choice for their digestive systems,” says Garcia-Bengochea.”To [them], a carrot is like a candy bar.”