“Bonnie beasties” – therapy ponies bring joy to care home residents

By August 2, 2019 No Comments

Elderly residents of Jesmond Care Home have been paid a special visit by a pair of furry, four-legged friends.

Miniature Shetland ponies, Wilson and Flicker, spent time at the home yesterday accompanied by owners Elaine and John Sangster.

The husband and wife team are the owners of Therapy Ponies Scotland, which they set up 2015, after looking after the animals for over 10 years.

Now, the duo brings their herd of horses to care homes and hospitals across Scotland – greeting people who are elderly or unwell.

Standing at just over two feet high, the ponies are invited to Jesmond Care Home twice a year.

Animal therapy is becoming more and more common as a way of reducing stress and anxiety in older people.

While Wilson entertained residents in the lounge area, Flicker used the lift to visit those who weren’t able to leave their rooms.

Ivor, said: “What bonnie beasties they are!”

Margaret O’Farrell, 84, said: “They are so beautiful, do you think they’d notice if I kept one?”

Florrie, said: “This is amazing, I can’t believe there’s a pony in my bedroom!”

Home manager Dawn Gardiner said: “It’s amazing to see the residents’ reactions to the ponies – they just absolutely love interacting with them.

“We aim to ensure that everyone who lives here is as healthy and happy as possible so we have designed a busy schedule of different activities across the week.

Aside from being enjoyable, animal therapy has many proven benefits for the elderly, supporting physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

Elaine Sangster said: “We’ve been looking after ponies since 2009 and decided to start this venture about four years ago. They are our pets so it’s great to also work with them on a daily basis and it means they love the human contact.

“Each one is specially trained and extremely comfortable around strangers, bringing a smile to anyone who they meet Every time you bring them into a room, the atmosphere is incredible. All the residents want to cuddle them and give them a squeeze.

“We’ve seen people who don’t usually interact or speak become very animated when the ponies arrive, and carers have even shed a tear after the reactions of their residents.

“I think the ponies must have some kind of sixth sense as they always go to the people who need them most. If someone isn’t able to leave their room, the ponies will even go up in the lift to visit them.”