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(CBS) — They’ve been around for hundreds of years , but many of us have never seen one.

They are miniature horses, and one nurse is using them as therapy animals.

CBS 2’s Harry Porterfield says she’s someone you should know.

Each is no more than 32 inches in height, but they are as much a horse as you will ever see, even though they are miniatures.

On this occasion they are meeting residents from the Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights who have come to Dynasty Farm for a therapy visit.

The horses are part of an animal-assisted program called Mane in Heaven, founded by nurse Jodie Diegel. She began with therapy dogs.

So, how do people react when they first see the horses?

“Well, the first three words that usually come out of peoples’ mouth is ‘Oh, my gosh,’” she says.

The animals have been around since the early-1600s, about 400 years.

The first true breed of miniature horses originated in Europe, bred mainly by wealthy English royalty. Some were treated as pets, while others were used as work horses in the mines.

Mane in Heaven operates with an all-volunteer staff. One of them is Dina Morgan.

“It just warms my heart. It’s good therapy for me, it’s therapy when I go to the different homes and the facilities and I see how just peoples’ eyes light up when they look at these little horses,” she says.

The animals wear sneakers to prevent them from slipping.

Jodie also has therapy dogs.

What’s the difference between a therapy dog and a therapy horse?

“There really isn’t much difference except the horses don’t jump into bed with you,” Jodie says.

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