Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, the bestselling author of Mini Horses, Mighty Hope and cofounder of Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, recently sat down with me for a special episode of the This Animal Life podcast to discuss a burning question: when a specially trained therapy animal comforts a stranger in distress, does the animal understand or even care what it’s doing?
Gentle Carousel‘s miniature horses interact with an estimated 25,000 people all over the country each year, including survivors, first responders, hospital patients, and more. One of their horses, Magic, was named one of history’s ten most heroic animals by Time magazine and declared the Most Heroic Pet in America by AARP. The question I pose to Debbie is this: do therapy horses really care about the strangers they comfort?
To my astonishment, what emerged from this interview was, for me, a most profound insight into the nature of unconditional love between species. Not only is it authentic, it’s more powerful than I ever imagined.
Join Debbie Garcia-Bengochea and me as we get to the bottom of animal hearts. You’ll be comforted, inspired, and amazed.
After we cover their two-year training program, we apply the science of emotional and social intelligence to examples of powerful encounters between therapy horses and people in distress. Join us as we uncover the essence of emotional intelligence, horse’s uncanny ability to read human facial expressions, and the fascinating reasons why horses monitor and influence the emotional states of others.
Debbie Garcia-Bengochea’s book, Mini Horses, Mighty Hope: How a Herd of Miniature Horses Provides Comfort and Healing is an exquisitely poignant book that quickly brings readers to tears of empathy and joy with stories of how the Gentle Carousel Therapy Horses bring comfort, hope, and healing to children, the elderly, first responders, survivors, their families, and others experiencing life’s most difficult challenges.
While the book brings you along on their many interactions with people, this special Christmas episode of This Animal Life, “Does Magic the Therapy Horse Really Care About People?” focuses on what daily life is like for these tiny equines with such heavy jobs to do. Do horses, like people, compassion fatigue? How do you avoid stressing horses, which are prey animals, when taking them to the scenes of mass shootings and natural disasters? Find out all these fascinating facts, poignant stories, and more.