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Because of Horses

Feb 22, 2019

In today’s episode, Elise is joined by Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, the co-founder of Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses — an award-winning, all-volunteer non-profit. Gentle Carousel’s teams of tiny therapy horses visit over 25,000 adults and children each year inside hospitals, hospice programs, and with families who have experienced traumatic events.


These little horses are always ready to go — helping to comfort survivors and first responders of the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT; the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC; and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL. They’ve also helped the tornado survivors of Moore, OK; victims of the fires in Gatlinburg, TN; families in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma; and thousands of patients in children’s and veterans’ hospitals across the country.


In this episode, Debbie explains her original inspiration and motivation for starting Gentle Carousel; how these gentle, tiny horses help people connect with one another in heart-breaking times; and some of the beautiful interactions between horses and patients over their 20 years of helping others. She also shares how they’ve trained the horses for working inside buildings -- yes, they’re “house-broken” -- the vastly different environments and settings they go into, and how they care for the horses on and off the job.


Topics of Discussion:

[:18] About today’s guest.

[1:35] Debbie’s original inspiration and motivation for starting Gentle Carousel.

[2:30] How these gentle, tiny horses help people to connect with one another.

[5:10] What is it about horses that people really connect with, whether or not they’re horse-lovers, as well as a detailed description of the horses’ two-year training program.

[9:48] How the horses lead their handlers, seemingly knowing which individuals need them most.

[12:36] Through the horses’ interaction with people in need, does it feel as if there’s something more than “just” therapy at work?

[15:21] Debbie and Elise reflect on the magical gift that is miniature horses.

[17:49] How do you house-train a horse?

[19:26] About all the different environments the horses have gone into – including elevators, TV studios, hospitals, and more.

[20:01] Are there places Debbie still wants to take the horses that they have not already been?

[23:11] Debbie explains how Gentle Carousel cares for their miniature horses.

[27:10] Why it is so important to treat the miniature horses the same as large horses?

[36:30] Debbie and Elise discuss the size and temperament of miniature horses, and whether each individual specializes in the types of situation or need.

[43:30] About Elise’s book, A Parent’s Guide to Riding Lessons.

[46:07] How Debbie and her volunteers personally get through their sometimes highly emotional encounters, witnessing others’ heartbreak.

[52:00] About next week’s episode of Because of Horses.

[53:15] Where to learn more about Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses.


Know Someone Inspirational, Whose Life Has Been Forever Changed Because of Horses? Because of Horses would love to get to share their story!

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Mentioned in this Episode:

Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses

Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses’ Facebook

Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses’ Instagram

A Parent’s Guide to Riding Lessons: Everything You Need to Know to Survive and Thrive with a Horse-Loving Kid, by Elise Gaston Chand

United States Pony Club

Next week’s episode of Because of Horses


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