Hospital in Chicago uses miniature horses to provide therapy for sick children

Recent reports have suggested that animal therapy could have wide-reaching health benefits for ill children

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The Independent US

A hospital in the US has come up with a novel way to bring a bit of light relief to the lives of their young patients.

The Rush University Medical Center situated in Chicago, Ilinois, has recently decided to enlist the help of two miniature horses to aid the recovery of those in the hospital’s paediatric wards.

Last month, the Hospital invited horses Mystery and Lunar to provide distractions for the young patients suffering from a range of illnesses.

Doing the rounds on the ward in November, patients got the chance to stroke, feed and water the mini steeds.

And according to the smiling patients, the experience was beneficial.

Speaking to the Associated Press cameras, epilepsy patient Emily Pietsch, 17,  said: “They’re so nice and they don't judge and they're so sweet.'

The horses, which are the size of big dogs, have been used before to visit other institutions, but this was the first time that they had been into a hospital. Jodie Diegel, Owner, Mane in Heaven: “We have been in nursing homes and homes for the disabled.

“This is our very first hospital visit. We are so excited.”

The use of the horses in Chicago marks a growing trend by medical professionals to use animal therapy as a viable form of additional treatment for those suffering with illness.

Reports have suggested that animal-assisted therapy could have wide reaching health benefits, with a recent study in the Southern Medical Association's journal reporting that animal therapy was “effective.”

Robyn Hart, Child Life Services, Rush Univ. Medical Center, is an advocate of the method and believes it will benefit the patients in the long-term.

“We know now that there's a strong connection between the mind and the body, so when the mind is feeling good, when there's positive feelings, that helps toward recovery and healing.”

Dogs are the animals usually used for this type therapy; however, the Barrington-based group Mane in Heaven are trying to expand the method by using horses, due to their gentle and calming nature.

Additional Reporting AP