Animals have been helping humans since the dawn of civilization, and probably a good deal before that.
There are no limits to what our furry friends are capable of when it comes to proving themselves worthy of our love and attention.
Even now, in the age of technology, with machines taking the place of labor and instigating a time of real change, we’re finding ever more useful ways to interact with animals.
That includes the use of miniature ‘therapy ponies’ bringing joy to sick and disabled children, as well as elderly patients and those suffering from dementia across Scotland, UK.
Their organization was set up four years ago, after a friend asked them if they could bring a pony to visit patients in a rehabilitation care home.
The patients loved their guests so much that there was high demand for Elaine and John to bring them back. Thus, the idea of therapy ponies was born.
“We had been keeping miniature Shetlands as pets for around ten years. We loved them and took them everywhere we went. We even took one, Wilson, on our honeymoon as he was too young to be left alone,” Elaine explained.
“Back at home, when we went shopping they came with us too. Often there were dogs bigger than them and they always generated huge interest everywhere we went.
“But after that first visit to the rehabilitation unit we were asked to visit several care homes and hospices. It made us realise that we wanted to share the joy and love that we got from the ponies and do this full time. As soon as we made that decision, we were inundated with requests. In fact we have not stopped, we are always travelling.”
As a result of the popularity, the couple now visit care and nursing homes, hospices, day-care centers, sheltered housing facilities and out-of-school clubs for disabled children.
The ponies are trained to be calm and quiet, whilst only those small enough to travel in a life are permitted to visit.
“The ponies do go into lifts to reach bedrooms where people are too unwell or just don’t want to leave. It’s amazing to see the reaction from both young and old,” Elaine explained.
“Our ponies are so small that their heads are the same height as someone’s lap. You will see someone who had seemed emotionless, suddenly respond and kiss and hug a pony.
“The ponies have also been known to trigger speech. One elderly gentleman who had dementia and had hardly said anything in a long while started to talk after being with the ponies. He talked about growing up on a farm with his dad, and working with Clydesdale horses, which are huge animals. It was obvious that the little ponies had sparked something and unlocked a memory. It was so extraordinary that his nurse started to cry.
“It is also really special to see the children. But it isn’t just the poorly children that we help but their siblings and families too. I would say that if we do anything, we provide a distraction. While we are there all worries and concerns go out the window.
“We had one little boy who was about to go for heart surgery. He was only three, and it was touch and go. His mother told us that he had a bucket list, which included being on a pony. So we brought our ponies over to him. He couldn’t speak but he was squeaking with happiness.”
Elaine and John own 15 miniature ponies but only take two at a time on trips.
What a brilliant idea! And what a fantastic, natural way to improve the mood of sick and disabled patients.
Share this article if you think this sort of therapy should be available all over!