Society: A pony brings happiness to the nursing home

A pony brings happiness to the nursing home

The visit of the ponies in the nursing home brings variety for the residents. photo

© Sebastian Gollnow/dpa

Daily life in a nursing home can often be monotonous. Visitors bring variety for the residents – especially when there is suddenly a pony in the room.

Four hooves clatter down the hallway of the nursing home. Andrea Tigges-Angelidis knocks on a room door, leading a brown Shetland pony by the halter. “Hello, do you want visitors? The ponies are back in the house today,” she calls out loud. Dieter Fröbe is lying in his bed in one of the rooms. The old man is visibly moved when he sees the little horse.

“I’m quite surprised. That’s great,” he says quietly. “This is Paulinchen,” explains Tigges-Angelidis. The animal takes a small step forward and comes into direct contact with the 89-year-old. He carefully strokes the soft brown fur. “Well, my darling,” calls Herr Fröbe.

On this wintry afternoon, Tigges-Angelidis loaded two ponies into her trailer and drove them to the nursing home in the Sachsenhausen district of Frankfurt. She visits here about once a month. Then she switches between different stations and moves from room to room with the animals. “These mini Shetties simply give feelings of happiness, beautiful moments and positive moments,” says the 56-year-old, who works full-time as an educator. “I have some residents who cry with happiness when we come.”

Ponies are a welcome change in everyday life

Home employee Sarah Rogage also says: “For many, visiting the ponies is always a real highlight.” After all, the residents otherwise always experienced the same daily routine. Of course, not everyone has a connection to the horses, “but many are happy because they used to have animals themselves and couldn’t take them home with them”.

Meanwhile, resident Christine Müller is sitting on the bench in front of the elevators, with Toffee, the second Shetland pony, standing in front of her. The 77-year-old laughs, wraps her arms around the frugal animal and buries her white hair deep in her mane.

Ms. Müller has no fear of contact. The East German has been living in the nursing home for a few years and tells of a horse farm near Gotha where she used to work. “I always have to watch out for Mrs. Müller, because she’s disappeared into her room twice with a pony,” says Tigges-Angelidis.

Animals need training

“Not every pony is suitable for such work and the training of an animal takes at least a year,” explains the expert. With her therapy animals – in addition to the mini Shetties, this also includes owls and birds of prey – she also drives to day-care centers or accompanies the severely disabled.

So what is it about the animals? “The ponies must be incredibly friendly and patient.” And they learned to get used to the unusual: narrow elevators or rattling dish trolleys, for example. And they would also have to be introduced to the constant touching and hugging.

Dogs are also used again and again for such or similar operations. The association Tröstende Pfoten from Flörsheim (Main-Taunus-Kreis) goes one step further. It supports and organizes the training of therapy dogs throughout Germany, which are then used in homes or by private individuals in palliative care.

The animals have a special feeling for people and often have a calming effect, said palliative care nurse Ivana Seger, who founded the association six years ago. And: “In the often difficult and sad situations, when many relatives lack the words, the dogs can achieve incredible things just by their presence.”


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