“A small pony is led into the nursing home bedroom of a lady who is partially sighted. Her carer quietly explains that she has a visitor…within seconds her face lights up and she reaches out to touch the velvety, soft nose and fuzzy mane that belong to Robbie, one special little miniature Shetland. The lady is overwhelmed with joy at being able to touch and, most importantly, smell the tiny pony who stands calmly beside her bed and clearly enjoying all the attention and fuss. Robbie’s presence instantly reminds her of the time that she and her husband kept their own much- loved horses on their farm in Wales. In a world that has started to close in on her and become ever more confusing, we all see it suddenly expand with long forgotten memories and experiences that have shaped her whole life. Memories and feelings of warmth, love, laughter, sadness and hardship fill the room…we are all affected by it.”
This is the scene witnessed just a couple of weeks ago by Rhiannon Pugh, a Volunteer Trustee for the Lluest Horse and Pony Trust and it moved her to tears. The experience serves to remind us why animal assisted therapy matters so much and the importance of the small charity that rehabilitated Robbie and the therapy group he is now a big part of.
Robbie the pony’s life story is a great example of how truly transforming the charity’s work can be. He was found in 2012, collapsed and starving by the side of a busy Welsh city road. He was close to death when his rescuer, Lucy, drove past, initially mistaking him for a pile of rags. A slight movement made her turn around and go back and what she found was a tiny, emaciated pony barely able to stand and in desperate need of emergency care. Robbie was so small that she was able to lift him onto the back seat of her vehicle to keep him warm while she waited for help. Robbie’s first few hours were critical as he was regularly collapsing and Lucy slept all night with him in the stable, willing him to pull through.
She said “He gave the best kisses and we felt he wanted to be with us.”
Thanks to her amazing care in those first 24 hours, Robbie did pull through and was able to be transported to the Lluest Horse and Pony Trust.
He soon moved into his first ‘guardian’ home with Barbara who took over his care and was quick to spot his capacity to be calm and comfortable around adults and children.
Barbara brought Robbie back to full health and also nurtured his talent for working with people, taking him along to community events and schools to promote the work of Lluest and highlight the importance of equine welfare. When Barbara’s circumstances sadly changed, she asked if the charity could find another suitable home for Robbie and so he moved to a new home at Bryndafydd Animal Assisted Therapy, which is owned by another Lluest trustee, Ann Slater.
Bryndafydd Animal Assisted Therapy is supported by Mollichaff Donkey and, although a miniature Shetland pony and not a donkey, Robbie is also fed on this high fibre feed as it is perfect for maintaining his weight.
Said Ann: “As a typical miniature Shetland, Robbie is a good doer and I need to watch his weight. Mollichaff Donkey is perfect as it is so low in calories, starch and sugar but high in fibre and Robbie loves it!”
Ann has gone on to develop Robbie’s talents further and he is now part of the Bryndafydd team of ‘therapy animals’ working alongside youngsters as part of a youth development project and has recently started his work in nursing homes, already making an impact on many residents. He will share some of his nursing home visits with his best buddy, Enoch the donkey.
Without the Lluest Pony Trust, Robbie would not be alive today and without Bryndafydd Animal Assisted Therapy, this important work would not be possible.
Lluest Horse and Pony Trust is a charity (Reg. Charity No.1150948) and relies on regular donations to continue to transform the lives of horses and ponies in need.
For further information please visit www.lluesthorseandponytrust.co.uk
For further information on Bryndafydd Animal Assisted Therapy please visit www.animalassistedtherapywales.wordpress.com
For further information on feeding your horse, pony or donkey please visit www.horsehage.co.uk or call 01803 527257