Written by: Colleen Archer

These pint-sized horses can bring joy to residents of hospitals and nursing homes

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Kim and Ken Keill live on a small farm outside Renfrew, Ontario, where for the past 12 years they have bred and raised miniature horses – and find wonderful ways to share them with the world.

The Keills often participate in local fairs, parades, and community events, but one of the most rewarding things they’ve done with their minis is to take some in each year to visit the residents of Bonnechere Manor nursing home in Renfrew. The Bonnechere Manor day care program has also visited the minis at Keill Miniatures farm. “Wherever the minis visit,” says Kim, “they’re always a big hit.”

Although Ken wasn’t raised with horses like Kim was, Kim insists “he’s worse than me now!” Both agree that with miniature horses, “you can’t have just one.”

“Most of our horses we’ve raised and trained ourselves,” she says, “They’re always so cute and friendly that people can’t help but love them!”

Health care professionals have long known the value of therapy animals in nursing homes and hospitals. Visiting pets promote communication among residents, visitors and staff, and the touching and stroking of animals often lowers blood pressure and reduces anxiety and stress.

If you and your family have minis or small ponies of suitable temperament and would like them to visit hospitals or nursing homes, here are some guidelines to follow (we suggest all visits are overseen by a parent or other responsible and knowledgeable adult):

  1. First, contact the administrator to see if he or she would like your mini or pony to pay a visit. Describe your animal fully and say exactly what it would do. Would it perform tricks? Would it do some “friendly visiting”?
  2. Groom your mini or pony thoroughly and make sure it looks its best. Perhaps you could put a red ribbon in its mane or tail if it’s a Christmas visit, a green ribbon if it’s St. Patrick’s Day, hearts for Valentine’s Day, and so on.
  3. Be punctual. Arrive early enough to get your mini or pony used to the new environment. Make sure you have supplies on hand to do any cleanup that becomes necessary.
  4. Know the facility’s rules and policies and follow them.
  5. Be polite and considerate at all times.
  6. Watch for signs of stress and remove any animal that isn’t comfortable.
  7. Closely supervise your mini or pony at all times. Ask staff if there are any clients you shouldn’t see, and notify staff if a client becomes upset or ill.
  8. Always ask clients if they would like to see your animal before approaching. Only if they respond positively should you bring your mini or pony close to them.
  9. Be a good listener, and ask questions to keep the conversation going. Many patients or residents will tell you about horses they have known in the past. If they’ve had no experience with horses, ask if they’ve had other pets, such as dogs, cats or rabbits.
  10. End your visit at the scheduled time. If all has gone well, you might even like to inquire about the possibility of a second visit!

To see more of the Keill minis, visit www.keillminiatures.com.