I don't think animal therapy is a myth. Seriously, you would have to be stone cold evil to pick up a sweet puppy or kitten and not feel anything.
I've always thought some pets can sense your mood. In the past, I've experienced dogs and cats that have noticeably approached me and comforted me while I was upset.
It makes you wonder why certain animals have a reputation for being therapeutic while others don't. I mean, I haven't heard of snake therapy. Is that a thing?
OK, wait, yep, it is. I just Googled it,and oh, it exists, along with a slew of other unlikely companion species.
So I guess you can use any animal you'd like, but there's no denying animals are effective therapeutic companions.
When I first stumbled upon the organization Mini Therapy Horses, I instantly understood why it would work.
Horses are strong, powerful animals, and that's what they represent spiritually. It's also what they can inspire in people.
Victoria Nodiff-Netanel believes this so strongly that she's devoted her life to nurturing and training her mini horses, and taking them to see people experiencing trauma.
Victoria founded Mini Therapy Horses with the mission to provide therapeutic benefits to children and adults through equine-assisted activities (EAA) and equine-assisted therapy (EAT). She claims both lead to greater physical, mental and emotional well-being.
I had the incredible experience of following Victoria and the mini horses on a Ronald McDonald House visit in LA. I also got to hang out as Victoria trained them at her stables in the Malibu mountains.
Admittedly, I was very skeptical at first, but I began to admire Victoria's commitment to her horses and her cause.
She tends to them seven days a week and is regularly out and about taking them on visits. In fact, they visit over 50,000 children and adults each year.
The truth is, Victoria has lived a very productive life and doesn't have to do this. But her connection with the mini horses keeps her motivated every day to wake up early and go to bed late.
Victoria and the mini horses will get up and go out on a moment's notice. It's not out of the ordinary for her to hop out of bed at 1 am to respond to a crisis with one or two of her mini horses.
Victoria and the horses frequently visit VA hospitals, psych wards, ICUs, hospices and Ronald McDonald Houses in the Greater Los Angeles area. They also work with the Los Angeles Mayor's Crisis Response team to support victims of child abuse, terrorism and more.
When I first approached the mini horses, I was captivated by their presence and felt a calming aura. It's really impressive how they keep a chill vibe even indoors around massive crowds of people.
Victoria is relentlessly dedicated to them. She has been an avid horse lover ever since she can remember and learned how to ride at the age of 3. She was also a decorated equestrian trained by Olympians, and she competed in dressage.
She remembers a moment when she took her first mini horse, Pearl, to visit an elderly man in hospice. The man had one week to live and Victoria remembers the deep bond and connection he had with Pearl.
She recalls that it was so strong and peaceful she was inspired to start the Mini Therapy Horses nonprofit organization.
To support or learn more about the non-profit charity, visit the website.