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Peyo the Therapy Horse
HORSING AROUND Meet a Different Kind of Therapy Animal
Horses have been loyal and useful companions to humans for centuries. But unbeknownst to many who fear these long-legged, 1,000-plus- pound mammals, horses are also naturally intuitive and extremely sensitive to the moods of people around them. These traits make them excellent therapy animals for those with autism, cerebral palsy, chronic illnesses, and PTSD, among many more. In fact, there are dedicated horse- riding camps geared toward chronically ill children and adults all over the world. However, riding horses isn’t the only way to benefit from equine therapy; horses are also fantastic comfort animals
Meet Peyo, the 14-year-old “love stallion” from Dijon, France, who is cheering up chronically ill patients one nuzzle at a time. This accomplished artistic dressage competitor accompanies his owner, Hassen Bouchakour, on visits to hospitals and nursing homes, bringing joy with every clop of his hooves. Patients suffering from all manner of ailments blossom when Peyo comes to visit, laughing and smiling while being nudged by his soft nose. He seems to have a keen sense for patients who are truly suffering, and though his handler is always nearby, Peyo often chooses which rooms to enter of his own volition. Having a horse in a hospital room may not sound very sanitary, but Peyo goes through a strict grooming regimen to be deemed hygienic enough to be around patients. His hooves are greased, his mane and tail are braided, and his entire body is rubbed down with antibacterial lotion before being covered by a blanket. Before Peyo became a therapy horse, he was almost put up for sale by Bouchakour, who had a hard time wrangling Peyo’s fiery personality. But, over time, when they traveled to shows and competitions together, Bouchakour noticed the horse was drawn to the injured and disabled and would instantly calm at their touch. “It is one of the most pure, honest, and sweet things,” Bouchakour says. “They like each other very much without asking for anything else.”
that can relieve anxiety and promote a positive environment for bedridden patients — as long as the doorway is big enough.
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