Mini Horses Provide Big Comfort to Hospice Patients
Posted by Carol Swinford, Volunteer
Hospice therapy pets, like the sweet miniature therapy horses that visit our Hospice CareCenters, bring love, laughter and comforting companionship to those on the end-of-life journey. Visits from these furry volunteers and their handlers provide patients with a welcome distraction from illness and help them feel more relaxed.
Becoming a volunteer for JourneyCare, doing pet therapy, has been a high point in my life.
Walking into a Hospice CareCenter or a private home with a miniature therapy horse brings enormous welcoming smiles to both elderly and young hospice patients, and also hospice employees. The horses can soothe the emotionally distressed, reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure and relieve physical pain simply by interacting and being there.
Working several years as a nurse aide, I recognized the need for outside sources to give the residents something to look forward to and lift their spirits, if only for a short time. My first hospice visit with a miniature therapy horse was in 1998. I had purchased my first miniature horse in 1997 and I was hooked! The size of the horses is perfect to take into nursing homes, rehab facilities, private homes, hospitals and schools.
Therapy horses are trained for at least six months to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, unusual objects and sounds. Being hugged, rubbed, patted, bumped into, and having their tails tugged are all part of the training. The handler and mini are tested and evaluated to become a registered team through Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program. This is the only national registry that requires volunteer training of animal-handler teams to be fully insured through the organization.
Putting a smile on someone's face, if only for a brief moment, makes all that I do worthwhile. I'm looking forward to many more years of visits with my two registered therapy minis.