Staff Extranet >
Rarely can you walk the corridors of a hospital ward and be greeted by a 34-inch horse - but this is exactly what staff and patients at Blandford Hospital have been experiencing.
Going by the name Lofty, the American miniature horse has been bringing joy and smiles to the faces of everyone he encounters at the busy community hospital.
The five-year-old is a qualified therapy horse, whose visits bring comfort to patients with a love of animals, rekindling memories, creating conversation and leaving a lasting ‘feel good’ legacy.
Bringing Lofty onto the Tarrant Ward at Blandford Hospital was the idea of ward sister Kimberly Witt, who spotted the positive effect he was having at care homes and special needs schools across Somerset on social media.
After a brief conversation with owners April and Steve Kibby, Lofty was soon donning his tailor-made, Converse-branded shoes and strutting his stuff from bay to bay.
Kimberly said: “Lofty’s visits have had an incredible impact on patients and staff here. I knew he would prove popular among everyone he met, but the positivity he brought and the reactions he got from patients was amazing.
“We had one lady in particular with dementia and profound deafness who seemed to strike up an immediate connection with Lofty, having found it difficult to communicate with staff looking after her.
“As soon as Lofty entered her room, she stroked and held his muzzle and gazed into his eyes with a smile. It was moments like this that made the whole thing worthwhile.”
Senior Sister Gill Wood, said: “Lofty’s presence just gave everyone a high, and reminded patients that there is life outside these hospital walls. It is surprising how many of our patients can relate to him or have memories of horses they once owned or have known in the past.”
Lofty has been doing therapy visits since 2015. Research shows that animals can promote relaxation and lower blood pressure in humans. They can also help children who are reluctant to communicate or have low self-esteem.
His owner April said: “Lofty is an extremely loving and easy going character, and this makes him perfect for therapy visits. Some of the interactions he has with adults and children are phenomenal - and this reminds us why we do it.
“To see patients at Blandford Hospital come to life in Lofty’s presence, having been quite withdrawn for some time was fantastic to see, and we are so grateful to the Tarrant team who raised and donated £230. We don’t charge for visits but this really helps.”
Demand for Lofty’s return to Blandford Hospital has been so high, from both staff and patients, that he will be heading back there in November.