Residents at the Laurels & Pine Lodge Care Home enjoyed a visit from a nine-year-old Pony called “Star” who is a member of Lofty Therapy Horses Family.

Star and Pony Handler April Kibby travelled from Somerset to meet and greet the 44 excited residents who live at the Oakdale Care Home in Poole.

Standing at 32-inchs in height, the calm and quiet American Pony called Star, is also known as ‘Whitetales Trigger She’s Just Dandy’.

It is true that a small pony visiting a care home is an unusual activity, but it was endearing to see the powerful connection between the four-legged animal and the human psyche of senses:

  • Touch Sensory experience – the ability to stroke the fur and feel the hair of the Pony pleases the residents greatly and 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 & 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 to open up and talk; asking questions such as ‘how old is the horse, is it a horse or pony and why is she wearing shoes?

Ann Smith, Activities Coordinator at The Laurels & Pine Lodge said:
“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 to see a pony up close!”

How do the residents react? At first, the residents were quietly cautious about a pony coming in to the room because it can be hard for them to grasp the concept of size and dimensions of the animal then they realise she is only small and they are in awe of her.

April Kibby runs Lofty Therapy Horses and has a background as Veterinary Nurse:

“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 at The Laurels & Pine Lodge 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.”

There appears to be increasing interest and demand in Pony visits to Care Homes – according to April, the animals carried out 72 visits in 2017 and this year they are set to do over 100.