A miniature horse kicking a soccer ball or playing piano with its nose is a sight that could put a smile on anyone’s face.
But at the Ronald McDonald House in Hollywood, tiny horses mean much more than a good laugh. For the critically ill children who live there, playing with these petite creatures is therapeutic.
"I think it just takes everybody's mind off of whatever they're going through," said 14-year-old cancer patient Chloe Dollar.
Dollar has been living at the Ronald McDonald House with her mother for the past three months while she receives life-saving treatment. She has gone through six rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.
"There were times where she didn’t know if she was going to make it through and wanted to keep fighting," said her mother, Tamara Dollar.
But she added that her daughter’s naturally positive attitude has helped her through tough times and spending time with the miniature horses has helped to lift her spirits.
Through the nonprofit Mini Therapy Horses, the horses visit more than 45,000 children and adults in crisis each year.
"There's such a shift in what people are going through when they see the horse, it's like pulling the clutch in," said Mini Therapy Horses founder Victoria Nodiff-Netanel. "It takes them, a lot of times, out of the pain that they're feeling, out of their depression, despair."
In addition to the Ronald McDonald House, the horses also visit veteran’s hospitals and are certified first responders with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Mayor’s Crisis Response Team.