A Tiny Hero: Magic the Therapy Horse
For the month of December, I am featuring my first mini as The Naturally Healthy Horse of the Month. She is an adorable seven-year old American Miniature Horse named Magic and she works as a therapy horse with Gentle Carousel Therapy Horses— a non-profit organization based in Florida.
Magic is already quite famous and it is truly an honor to feature her as my horse of the month. Some of her other accolades include being named:
- One of History’s 10 Most Courageous Animals by TIME Magazine;
- Most Heroic Pet In America – AARP;
- A Reader’s Digest / Americantowns Power of One Hero;
- One of the 10 Most Heroic Animals of 2010 – Newsweek /The Daily Beast;
- 2014 winner of the prestigious E.T. York Distinguished Service Award; and
- One of Seven Most Notable Animal Heroes in the World – UK’s The Daily Mirror 2014.
Magic is also a 2014 Breyer Portrait Model Horse and has her own children’s book titled, The Power of Magic!
But let’s talk about why Magic has earned all of these honors.
This little mare has a very special job which includes visiting sick children and adults all over the country. She travels frequently and works in busy buildings.
Working indoors would be a challenge for any horse– especially inside a hospital. Magic walks up and down steps, rides in elevators, walks on unusual floor surfaces, moves carefully around hospital equipment, works in small rooms, and handles unexpected sounds like ambulances, alarms, and hospital helicopters. And yes, she is house trained!
Even though Magic may seem like an old pro, she is always learning. Every day is different and the therapy horses face new challenges with each place they visit. For example, Magic and her sister, Sweetheart were invited to tour Zoo Atlanta with the zoo staff and veterinarians. They were filmed by the zoo videographer and remained calm even when a tiger jumped on the glass in from of them.
Magic has traveled up skyscraper elevators in New York City, flown on private jets and worked on stage. She has even visited with politicians in Washington D.C. (because of her work with child trafficking victims).
Magic and a team of her equine friends from Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses traveled from Florida to Newtown, CT right after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A special request for Magic was made by the Newtown community. The horses traveling with Magic were selected for their experience working inside schools.
The Newtown community set up the daily schedule for the therapy horses. In addition to working with children in schools, making private visits and spending time with first responders, Magic was asked to visit children at Newtown’s library. Gentle Carousel was told that there would be just two or three children because the library had been very quiet since the events at Sandy Hook. But surprisingly, over 600 people showed up to see Magic.
About the event, USA TODAY wrote, “… Newtown’s Booth Library, hosted a children’s program with the horse and said the excitement surrounding the event seemed like the beginning of a return to normalcy… like a step forward after weeks of grieving.”
Last year, while Magic and her buddy, Hamlet were working with tornado survivors in Moore, Oklahoma, they became tornado survivors themselves. The horses were there to help encourage children who had lost their homes and were in the schools destroyed by the EF-5 tornado, but while they were visiting, another massive EF-5 tornado hit the same location. It was the biggest tornado in US history.
Magic and Hamlet were evacuated south just minutes ahead of the monster storm. The location where they were staying was destroyed and the hotel where the Gentle Carousel volunteers were staying was badly damaged. Magic and Hamlet were not bothered by the loud tornado sirens or rushing people. Because they train and work inside hospitals and hear ambulance sirens all the time, they were calmly eating in the horse trailer during the escape.
What makes Magic so special is the bond she seems to develop with the people she visits. Here are a few of the stories that were relayed to me.
When Magic visited a little boy who was losing his sight because of a brain tumor, he held Magic close to his face so he could always remember what she looked like. “It is like she can see inside my soul,” he told his mother.
Another little boy with a life-ending illness who had been in the hospital most of his life requested a visit from Magic. He laughed and hugged her and was so excited. After the visit his mother said, “We have never had a happy day, and now we will always have a happy day.”
Magic seems to have a knack for finding the person in the room who needs her the most. At a camp for children with cancer, Magic wanted to spend time with a young boy sitting by himself. She put her face against his face and they both closed their eyes and didn’t move for a long time. After their visit, a nurse told Magic’s trainer that the boy had just found out his cancer had returned.
On another occasion, Magic was in the bedroom of a man who passed away with his hand resting on her head. This man told his family earlier that day how much he missed his childhood pony.
In a nursing home, a woman who had not left her room in six months was waiting in the lobby early in the morning when she heard Magic was coming. She had an old black and white photo in her lap of herself as a child sitting on a pony.
One day a newspaper reporter was taking photos of therapy horse Magic at an assisted living program in Ocala when Magic walked over and put her head in the lap of a resident. The woman, who had not spoken since she arrived at the facility more than three years earlier, began talking to Magic .”Isn’t she beautiful,” were her first words. “It’s a horse!”. The activities director was so surprised to hear the woman speak that she began to cry. She told the woman that she loved her. “I love you too,” was the answer, her first sentence to another person in all that time. The woman continued to talk to staff and family members long after Magic’s visit.
Magic has a tuxedo that she wears on special occasions. The tuxedo was first made for Magic to wear to a party for a five year old girl in hospice care. The little girl wanted to have a tea party with Magic. Magic arrived in her tuxedo and her friends and cousins all came in princess dresses. It was a wonderful party and a very happy day for everyone. Making memories is an important part of Magic’s work.
When Magic is not working as a therapy horse, she has lots of time to play and live like a horse though. She is turned out in a pasture as much as possible with her own little herd, and she gets plenty of exercise everyday with her trainer as well. She stays in a large stall at night with one of her buddies. Magic eats a forage-only diet fed in small amounts throughout the day (Triple Crown Safe Starch).
Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity whose teams of tiny horses visit over 35,000 adults and children each year inside hospitals, hospice programs and with those who have experienced traumatic events. From the school children and first responders of Sandy Hook Elementary School to the tornado survivors of Moore, OK, and child trafficking victims in Washington D.C., Magic and her friends bring special love where it is needed most.
The best way to contact Gentle Carousel is through their Facebook page or website. The charity is looking for sponsors for individual therapy horses for 2015. You can also help by donating money or requested items (see this page.)