Therapy horses bring joy to pediatric patients at Loyola University Medical Center

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Therapy horses from Soul Harbour Ranch visited patients in the Loyola University Medical Center pediatric unit Sunday. (WLS)

The elevator ride up to the pediatrics unit was a bit more crowded than usual when therapy horses visited Loyola University Medical Center.

Therapy horses Lunar and Mystery and their volunteer handlers traveled from Soul Harbour Ranch in Barrington to visit young patients at the hospital.

"They're gentle, they're sweet, they're literally the size of some big dogs," said Loyola Registered Nurse Maria Lowis of the horses. "So it's cute to see them walking down the halls."

Mystery almost fell asleep in one patient's lap.

"It means a lot to Curtis, to the other patients," said Stephanie Carter of her son, a patients at Loyola. "It lets them know that there's someone else out here that loves them the most."

Sporting custom shoes and socks, the horses made the rounds.

"It makes me feel happy because I missed my animals at home," said patient Matthew Cronin.

Parents also appreciated the horses' calming presence.

"They're looking at the same scenery around here 24/7, and to see something walk in that's an animal, you know just gives them comfort and joy," said Dawn Cronin.

Soul Harbour Ranch organizers said the therapy horses' benefits go beyond the excitement of seeing an animal.

"Animals are non-judgmental and there's just this kindness, loving, gentle moment that's unbelievable," said Soul Harbour Ranch Founder and President Jodie Diegel.
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