Have you heard the one about the horse that walked into a hospital? Summer is a therapy horse who recently visited the dementia ward at Lagan Valley Hospital, much to the delight of both staff and patients.
Summer, a miniature Salabella horse from Argentina, is part of the Hayes family and has been specially trained to provide therapy for those in need.
After joining the Hayes family, her owner Samantha noticed that her son, who has a number of conditions including Aspergers, had a marked improvement in symptoms when Summer was with him. Then one day a chance encounter on a beach encouraged Samantha to help other people as well.
“We were on the beach and a woman came over and said we should take Summer into the Children’s Hospice,” explained Samantha. “She said that her three year old daughter had died and if we had been there she would have had something lovely at the end of her life.”
Summer has been trained so that she doesn’t pull out any vital wires and can pick things up wither lips rather than her teeth and she can even tickle people as well.
“I have had seventeen horses and Summer is beyond anything I could have imagined,” continued Samantha. “She is so easy to train and she has a real empathy with people.”
Summer, who is the size of a Great Dane, visits the Children’s Hospice, Special Needs Schools and events to raise money for charity. However, the recent visit to the dementia ward was her first visit to the Lagan Valley Hospital.
“Being in a hospital was such a big deal and the reaction was so good,” said Samantha. “That generation grew up with horses and it really makes them remember.”
Occupational Therapist Helen McCullough helped to arrange Summer’s visit to the Lisburn hospital and was delighted with the response from patients. “I was on a course and someone told me about Summer. I thought it was something different.
“The horse was fantastic and the patients absolutely loved it and we will definitely be bringing Summer back again.
“There has been a lot of research on the benefits of animal therapy. I love animals and nothing gets a bigger reaction.
“It was absolutely brilliant and it is something we would hope to do twice a year.”