Residents at Guelph’s Stone Lodge Retirement Residence got a four-legged visitor Wednesday intent on brightening their day.
Gracie, a five-year-old miniature horse, dropped by for a contact-free window visit at the Cole Road residence.
Helen Vanos, who owns Small Wonders Miniature Therapy Horses, brought Gracie to Stone Lodge for the visit.
“Smiles, laughter. It really seems to provide a sense of togetherness … it’s brought back a lot of memories for a lot of residents,” Vanos said of what Gracie brings.
“They seem to find it very therapeutic.
“It might be awhile before we can resume face-to-face visits, so while the lockdown continues, I think it’s more important than ever to share the comfort and joy that Gracie brings to all the people she meets.”
Gracie has done visits in the past, including a hands-on visit to Stone Lodge last fall that went “really well.”
“We did some visits last summer and into the fall and they went really well. We were getting tremendous feedback from the residents that we were visiting,” Vanos said of visiting a number of retirement, nursing and long-term care homes.
Vanos understands that Gracie is not a true therapy animal, more of a support animal, but she has received months of training to get used to the sights and sounds she might encounter while visiting people.
“Gracie’s not a licenced or registered therapy horse as such and we don’t claim that,” Vanos said.
“We’ve kind of gone with ‘therapy horse’ because it’s the easiest way to kind of describe what it is we do. She does provide relief from daily stresses and worry. She reduces anxiety and symptoms of therapy. But I’m not a therapist and we’re not ‘treating’ people.”
Gracie is a rescue horse and Vanos said she has the perfect temperament.
Vanos has also developed a program called Choose Kindness that she plans on bringing to area schools, a bullying prevention program for students in JK to Grade 4.