A Shetland pony called Mr Kelloggs delights Branksome Heights residents
Residents at Branksome Heights care home were thrilled to greet their VIP visitor Mr Kelloggs.
The Shetland pony brought a smile to everyone’s face as he walked around the garden and inside the home, even visiting residents in their bedroom.
Lynne Petty, manager of the Kingsley Healthcare home in Branksome Wood Road, Bournemouth, said: “Mr Kelloggs was very well behaved and his visit was a lovely surprise for our residents.
“There is an amazing connection between animals and older people which is obvious to see. Animal therapy has been shown to lift the mood and have a calming effect on people living with dementia.”
Sharon Gledhill, 57, of Burton, near Christchurch, runs Linking Hearts Therapy Horses with her daughter Megan, 24, and said seeing residents’ faces light up at the sight of Mr Kelloggs was “priceless”.
She said they had bought Mr Kelloggs, named after the Kelloggs factory near his former home in Wales, two years ago but the pandemic meant they had only started visiting care homes in May.
“Therapy horses need to have the right temperament to start with and then they go through lots of training to desensitise them,” she said.
“For example, we put obstacles in Mr Kelloggs’ field, walking him through a pit with plastic balls so he is accustomed to different sounds and surfaces; we also drag bottles filled with pebbles behind him.”
They practised manoeuvring in tight spaces by taking him through kissing gates on footpaths.
Mrs Gledhill, a part-time teaching assistant at The Sheiling School, in Ringwood, said: “Since the lockdown has eased we have been bombarded with calls from care homes. We have even taken Christmas bookings.”
She said it was amazing walking in a room with Mr Kelloggs and seeing residents do a double take.
“They stare as if to say, ‘is that a horse or am I dreaming’, she said.
“Faces light up, it is like switching a light on, and then residents start chatting away, asking questions about Mr Kelloggs and telling us about their own experiences with horses.
“It can be quite emotional. During one visit a lady with dementia was asking lots of questions and then afterwards, one of the carers told me she had not spoken for three months.
“Another lady told me, ‘you have not just made my day, you have made my year’, the reaction is priceless.”
To contact Linking Hearts Therapy Horse to make a booking, email [email protected]
Click here to find out more about Branksome Heights
Author: Stephen Pullinger