A community of care home residents in Kent were all smiles as they welcomed a surprise visit from a miniature Shetland pony.
Clip clopping around Shaftesbury Court Residential Care Home in Kent, the miniature pony, Xuili , was greeted warmly by residents, staff and relatives, with plenty of cuddles and carrots on offer for the affectionate animal.
The animal therapy session with Carly Thomas and Saddles Riding Centre Ltd, from Bexley, was organised by the not-for-profit Sanctuary Care home, which provides respite and residential care for 40 residents from the local community.
Standing at just 31 inches, the professionally trained pony spent time in the care home’s communal areas and was escorted around the residents’ rooms to ensure everyone had a chance to meet them.
Lenka Ulbrikova, Manager at Shaftesbury Court Residential Care Home, commented:
“The benefits of animal therapy for care home residents are well-documented, particularly for those living with dementia, with many studies demonstrating that animal therapy can help to lower stress, encourage social interaction and unlock past memories.
“The positive impact was notable with our residents, whose faces lit up as they stroked and interacted with our four-legged visitor, Xuili.
“Our team do everything we can to enrich the lives of our residents. Organising special activities, like animal therapy, is a bit part of this, creating a sense of belonging and community in our home which we know is so important for our residents to enjoy a happy and fulfilled life.”
Pauline Galea, 80, who lives at the Sanctuary Care home in Kent, said:
“The little pony was so lovely. I can’t ever remember being this close to one. It was surprisingly gentle, eating the carrots right out of our hands.”