When a Service Manager in Darlington heard that someone she supports loved ponies as a child, she arranged for therapy ponies to visit. Little did she know the little horses would brighten up the lives of many others.

“It came about because I was doing a person-centred review on someone we support, Jane*, who’s had brain injury since the age of nine,” says Service Manager Wendy Noble. “Her mum mentioned that she used to love horses when she was younger, and then I remembered that there was a company near us that did therapy ponies.”

“The reaction was incredible”

Things quickly developed from there, and the two American miniature horses - Mr P and Wish – headed up the lift and into the Darlington area office for their next Coffee Morning. When the ponies came in, the reaction was incredible. “Jane was sitting opposite the door, and her eyes lit up. She gasped, and I was like, ‘Jane, breathe!’ because she was just so excited.”

Little did they know that it wasn’t just Jane who would enjoy the company of ponies. “We had another guy, Steven, who was asleep at the time – he is generally asleep in his wheelchair – and he eventually woke up. He doesn’t give a lot of eye contact, and doesn’t smile a lot, but he smiled and tried his best to stroke them himself as well.”

13 people we support attended the event, and some of them got a bit active with the ponies. “Jake* actually went out into the car park with the pony and took them for a walk!” says Wendy. Others preferred to interact with them in more subtle ways. “Another guy called Sam* was putting his face next to the pony, and that was his way of giving them a kiss.”

“They’re about the size of a dog"

Katy Smith from KL Therapy Ponies – who also visits United Response services in Yorkshire – tells us the benefits of bringing horses into these settings. “They can calm people down and give them confidence, and it’s good for their wellbeing. It’s just nice to be able to interact with a horse because a horse doesn’t ask any questions.”

However, things have changed a little since KL Therapy Ponies started out seven years ago. “I was the first one in England to do it – taking ponies into the care home situation. But I found the normal size horses were too big, and not as approachable.” Luckily, Katy found a way to get past some of the drawbacks of using traditional horses. “So I started using miniature horses. They’re small - my tallest one is only 28 inches high – so they can go into people’s bedrooms, go in lifts and upstairs, and they’ve got an amazing temperament. They’re about the size of a dog.”

“I’d 100% recommend it”

When asked if Wendy would encourage more people to hire ponies, she was certain of the positivity it could bring to others. “I’d absolutely 100% recommend ponies to other people with learning disabilities or autism. We’ve got people in wheelchairs with complex needs, without any verbal communication, who were just so excitable – it was just unbelievable. Every single person enjoyed it.”

KL Therapy Ponies travel nationally and visit offices, residential care homes and supported living services. If you’d like to book a visit, call Katy on 07976 095 676 or email [email protected]

*Some names have been changed to protect identities

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