Horse named Magic aims to lift spirits for trauma patients

HOUSTON – She is tons of cute in a 2-foot frame. Her name is Magic and she has a mission.

It's to make sick kids feel better, and perhaps heal faster.

Magic is a 7-year-old miniature horse that tours the country providing therapy for sick children, and people who have survived trauma.

Magic spent Memorial Day with patients and their families at Houston's Ronald McDonald House.

One of them, 14-year-old Piley Tirado suffers from a disease that robs her bones of calcium. She rolled along beside Magic in her wheelchair as the little horse's trainer led her through the lobby.

"It makes me feel very happy because I can actually pet her and touch her and she makes me feel happy," Piley said.

Piley and many of the other kids who lined up to pet and hug Magic on Monday have already endured months of hospitalization, and could face many months more.

Twelve-year-old Nene Brown's has been hospitalized in Houston for eight months while undergoing treatment for cystic fibrosis. Her family has been commuting from its home in Columbus, Georgia. to be with her. The little horse was a welcome diversion.

"It helps you stop thinking about it," Nene's dad, Richard Brown said. "You dwell on it and you don't get past it. So things like this always help."

Magic and other therapy horses owned by Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses travel the country to visit more than 25,000 people each year in hospitals, hospice centers and disaster areas. The horses are trained to go into buildings, up stairs and ride elevators without flinching.

In December 2012, Magic went to Sandy Hook, Connecticut to visit adults and children impacted by the mass murder of 26 children at Newtown Elementary School. Magic traveled to Moore, Oklahoma to be with children who survived a massive tornado in May 2013 that killed 24 people, including seven school children.

Magic was named one of History's 10 Most Heroic Animals by Time magazine, as well as by Newsweek/The Daily Beast, among other honors.

Trainer Jorge Garcia-Bengochea says the therapy horses help people work through trauma. He says research shows just being around the little animals raises endorphin levels to make trauma victims feel euphoric.

"I think the key is unconditional love," Jorge Garcia-Bengochea said. "Magic approaches people, she likes the attention, and she seems to understand people are going through a difficult time."

The little horse has Piley Tirado thinking about the future when she'll no longer be in a wheel chair.