Residents at the Laurels & Pine Lodge Care Home enjoyed a visit nine year old pony, Star, who is a member of Lofty Therapy Horses Family.
Pony handler April Kibby travelled from Somerset to meet and greet the 44 excited residents who live at the Oakdale Care Home in Poole. At 32 inches in height, the calm and quiet American pony is also known as ‘Whitetales Trigger She’s Just Dandy’.
A pony visiting a care home is unusual, but it was endearing to see the powerful connection between the four legged animal and the human psyche of senses:
touch densory experience – the ability to stroke the fur and feel the hair of the pony has proven positive effects such as lowering blood pressure and an overall feeling of wellbeing
sight experience - Star is decorated with brightly coloured flower garlands around her neck and a decorative head collar as a visual cue for the residents with deteriorating eye sight to interact with her. Small stickers are gently attached to the pony and hair extensions are clipped to her tail to add bright, cheerful colours! It has become a fun habit for the ponies to wear tailor made shoes when visiting locations as a health and safety precaution to ensure they have sufficient grip and to also protect the floor
social interaction and communication - seeing the ponies brings back memories of caring for horses and past pets while also providing the opportunity to ask questions. The residents respond really well when they see the animal and asking questions such as "How old is the horse?" "Is it a horse or pony?" and "Why is she wearing shoes?"
Ann Smith, activities co-ordinator at The Laurels & Pine Lodge, says: "Star was a wonderful visitor to our home and everyone was happy to see her! It really creates a buzz and stirs up people’s emotions of previous memories of being around horses and ponies. The residents have been talking about it for days, so we know they really enjoyed this unusual yet happy experience of seeing a pony up close!
Clever techniques are used to encourage shy residents who are uncertain about their guest.
April Kibby who runs Lofty Therapy Horses and has a background as veterinary nurse, says: "I don’t tell residents that I’m bringing a horse in to the room in case they become confused by the idea. I say to them: 'I have a visitor for you', then they get a nice surprise and the reaction is priceless!
"Each pony horse has a different personality, so the type of visit will determine which horse we bring. Star enjoyed all the love and attention from the residents at The Laurels & Pine Lodge because she is happy to stand and be stroked as a calming and relaxing experience. The residents were really interested to know more about Star and I really enjoyed chatting to them to see their reaction. The smiles you see on their faces makes it all worthwhile."