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Therapy horses help Northwestern University students

December 22, 2018
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In this Dec. 10, 2018, photo, Stephanie Yaur, a freshman at Northwestern University, pets Hope, a miniature therapy horse visiting students as a way to help them de-stress during exams in Evanston, Ill. Therapy horses are helping Northwestern University de-stress during exams. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that this is the fourth year Mane in Heaven has brought miniature therapy horses to the Evanston campus. (Jenniffer Weigel/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Therapy horses are helping Northwestern University de-stress during exams for the fourth year.

Mane in Heaven has once again brought miniature therapy horses to the Evanston campus, The Chicago Sun-Times reported .

The Barrington-based organization has seven therapy horses that visit local institutions including hospitals, social service agencies and universities, said Dina Ewing Morgan, the nonprofit’s president, who is also a nurse.

“When we first started doing this for college kids, we wondered ‘Will it even have an effect?’” said Ewing Morgan. “We do this with special needs kids and hospital kids, and seniors, but we didn’t know if it would actually work on college kids and they love it.”

Freshman Stephanie Yaur took several photos with the horses before returning to studying.

“We got here an hour early and waited. We were so excited,” she said. “I wish they could come more often.”

Northwestern faculty member Haley Moberg-Brauer also visited the animals. She said they remind students that “there’s more out there than just your finals.”

“On college campuses the things that are lacking are little kids and animals and so when you bring animals into a campus, especially when you’re stressed, it’s so nice,” said Moberg-Brauer. “They remind you of home.”

Therapy animals help lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health and release calming endorphins, said Darlene Kelly, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist at Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago. Mane in Heaven visits the hospital every other month, she said.

“Words can’t describe what you see when the kids realize there are horses in here,” Kelly said. “They’ll walk around and visit the kids in their rooms. If there’s a kid in the ICU who has just gotten out of surgery and not feeling good, and all of a sudden a horse comes up to them, and they smile and pet it and suddenly they’re distracted from their pain. They become a different person.”

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