Everyone who loves animals knows just how much love they can give you. It's an unconditional type of support that no other human can really give you no matter how hard they try. That's why support animals are such a big deal all over the world.
Obviously dogs are the most common, with them being used to help those with many different conditions or issues, but they aren't the only ones.
Recently, ponies have started getting in on the action. That's right, Sheltand ponies have started being used to help people in need, specifically those with dementia.
The ponies were brought into a hospital that houses dementia patients in Scotland, and not only do they bring a smile to their faces, but it helps them gain confidence and mingle with others.
The program is run by Elaine and John Sangster who bring their ponies to the hospital and were thrilled with the results.
“We travel to wherever we are asked to go, where possible. The amazing reactions and responses from residents and patients we see can be extraordinary. Sometimes people who don’t normally speak or hold a conversation can be talking to us and the ponies much to the amazement of their nurse and carers."
It has been proven to have an impact even on residents who are reluctant to accept help. “The man normally didn’t come out of his room but after meeting Applejack, he couldn’t get down to the lounge quick enough and he was delighted to walk the pony too."
Even the nurses agree that the animals are helping the residents. Lyn Irvine, Nurse Consultant for Alzheimer Scotland revealed the positive effects they've noticed on the patients.
“The interaction with the ponies often helps stimulate a positive social response from people living with dementia and minimize stress and distress. The animals provide comfort, joy and a sense of excitement.
“The difference the animals make can be quite remarkable – stimulating positive engagement and therapeutic interaction through full conversations about the animals. That’s really precious – both for the person living with dementia and for their families and carers."
The treatment of dementia is a growing concern as more of the population gets older. Obviously a cure would be ideal, but in the mean time it's nice to know that they have something to help those in need.
It's not the only way ponies have been used to help either, they are actually starting to be used in place of guide dogs for a lot of people.
The Guide Horse foundation believes that using a pony is actually beneficial for their clients because the miniature horses actually live for around thirty years while dogs tend to only live 12-15.
They are also beneficial for those who are allergic to dogs, or have even been used in cases where religion doesn't allow a person to own a dog.
There are downsides, like with anything. Such as the fact that they need a bit more room than a dog would, which can be restrictive for potential families, but at least there is another option for those who need it.
I hope that programs like this become much more widely accepted, because seeing the joy on these residents faces while they interact with these ponies just proves how beneficial it is.
Dementia is a scary disease that affects a lot of people. If you want to learn more about it or how to try and prevent it click here.