Miniature horses becoming the new therapy animal

KING 5's Jenna Hanchard reports.

Miniature horses are becoming the new therapy pet.

There are only a handful of miniature horses in Washington State. One little horse named Diesel is making an impact on patients at Harrison Medical Center in Kitsap County.

"He would rather be wrapped around you than anywhere else in the world," said Eileen Watland, who owns Diesel and a handful of other miniature horses on her property in Poulsbo. 

She said larger horses are known to get spooked, but miniature horses are calm and can have a relaxing effect on people.

"The Greeks used to use horses for therapy," Watland said. "They say they cured gout and depression so it's come back from the Greek times."

Watland has been training Diesel for the last year and getting him comfortable around people. She's taken him to McDonald's, Fred Meyer, and Walmart.

But once a week, it's his trip to Harrison Medical Center that has the most impact.

"One day a case manager employee came in and said, ‘I have a friend that has a mini horse and would like to bring him in to the hospital,'" said Edith Enns, who runs the pet program at the hospital. "And I just stared wide eyed and said, ‘I'm not going to bring a horse into the hospital.'"

That changed once the hospital saw the impact he had on people. Diesel helps reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and most importantly he's helping to deliver happiness.

"It tickled me to pieces," said Sharon Rhodes, a hospital patient. "It really perked up my day. I haven't smiled so much like this in I don't know when. It made me feel good."

Feeling good seems to be just what the doctor ordered.

Copyright 2016 KING


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