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Therapy ponies bring smiles to the people of Cornerstone Canalside

12 Feb 2020

Mini Shetland ponies Wilson and Flicker delighted the people we support when they visited Cornerstone Canalside in Edinburgh, a day centre for people living with dementia.

Therapy Ponies Scotland, based in Lothian, is run by husband and wife team John and Elaine Sangster, who look after a grand total of 15 ponies and 11 dogs.  Established in 2015, the duo are outstanding in their field, taking their miniature Shetland ponies around Scotland into care homes, hospices, and hospitals. They bring joy to people with a range of illnesses and needs, including elderly people with dementia, patients with brain injuries, and children who have disabilities or special needs.  

Animal therapy has become a popular way of reducing stress and anxiety in older people. Aside from entertainment, they have many proven benefits for people with dementia, supporting physical and mental wellbeing, as well as encouraging communication. These therapets are more than just one trick ponies! 

Elaine Sangster explains “We have noticed the ponies often have a significant positive impact on the people we visit by lifting their mood and encouraging those who don’t normally interact to become animated and excited by their arrival! It can also be quite an uplifting and emotional experience for carers and families to witness the impact the ponies have, especially with some of the quieter residents”.

Pony3Wilson and Flicker brought beaming smiles to residents of Canalside, where they were able to stroke and hug the well natured ponies, alongside Newfoundland dog Arthur who tagged along! The ponies, who spend most of their time grazing out in a large field, are specially trained to be friendly and feel comfortable around people. Wilson the pony was even put through his paces, trotting up and down next to day centre visitor Ron, in his wheelchair.

One of the day centre visitors said how much she enjoyed meeting them describing them as “absolutely beautiful”.

Pony2Leanne Forrester, Canalside mentor said, “It is really good to have the ponies here. I was looking at the research which found it can be really beneficial because it’s comforting, and destresses people with dementia.

“I saw their faces as the ponies came in, their faces all lit up and every single person was just so happy and wanted to take them home.”

pony 5