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When Tinkerbell and Hope, two miniature horses from Mane in Heaven, an organization that provides therapeutic benefits to disabled and able-bodied children through animal-assisted activity, walked into NorthShore’s Pediatric Unit recently, patients were overjoyed by the visit.
“The feeling was honestly magical and surreal,” said Katelyn Beyer, CCLS Coordinator of Child Life Services. “One four-year-old patient wrapped her arms around a horse’s neck and remained there for probably 10 minutes. It was such a sweet, sweet moment captured in a photo. The dad was smiling so big seeing his daughter happy and so care-free!”
This was a similar reaction to every child from as young as 15-months-old meeting a horse for the first time while at the hospital to a 14-year-old patient recovering from spinal surgery. One of the patients even stated that her pain decreased from a “9 to a 6” during the horse visit.
This was the first time NorthShore’s Pediatric Unit had the opportunity to offer miniature horse therapy services to pediatric patients and families. Set up by the unit’s Child Life Specialists, who are experts in infant, child, and adolescent development, they have found that visits with animals, like miniature horses, lead to improved outcomes of physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Mane in Heaven is a professional organization and made every effort to fall in line with infection and safety guidelines. Therapy horses were shampooed and washed and passed all veterinary health exams, and updated on all Coggins blood tests.
“The horses are all potty-trained and wear clean shoes to cover their hooves when inside. Every child washed their hands with provided hand sanitizer before and after all physical interaction with the horses,” said Beyer. Beyer along with Peggy Balind, Manager of Pediatrics were present during the duration of the visit. Each volunteer was specific to making sure that pediatric patients and families safety came first and foremost.
“The horses arrived at Evanston Hospital and their scheduled visit lasted for approximately an hour. They visited with 13 pediatric patients/caregivers and many other hospital-wide Evanston employees came up to our unit as well to have a picture with the horses last week,” said Beyer. “We are hoping to have them visit quarterly!”