Florida Therapy Horses to Comfort Sandy Hook Community

A trio of Miniature Horses from Florida will begin the new year in Newtown, Conn., helping residents of that town heal after a gunman took the lives of more than two dozen children and adults at an elementary school there.

On Dec. 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 20 children and six of the school's adult staff members to death. Lanza then took his own life with a fatal gunshot to the head.

Shortly thereafter, individuals and families began contacting the nonprofit Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, a Gainesville, Fla.-based organization whose Miniature Horses bring equine therapy to hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and schools, said Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, the organization's education director.

"We'd had many calls from individuals and families," Garcia-Bengochea said. "Then city administrators invited us to come and we accepted."

No one from the Town of Newtown was available for comment.

On Dec. 29, therapy horses Magic, Aladdin, and Wakanda, along with human members of Gentle Carousel's all-volunteer staff, will leave Florida for Newtown. Bringing the horses to Newtown has been a community effort, Garcia-Bengochea said.

"The horse community has responded, businesses have donated funds to help us pay for the trip, and one lady is even making small horse blankets to keep our miniatures warm," Garcia-Bengochea said. "In additions, we've gotten donations for the trip from as far away as Brazil and South Africa."

The horses' exact mission will be determined by Newtown administrators, Garcia-Bengochea said.

"We don't know what we're going to do in Newtown," Garcia-Bengochea said. "But if we can do even some small part (for healing) we will do it."

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.