Last Friday a Connemara pony named Bander visited the residents of the Wingate Nursing Home in Highland that brightened their day, even for just a few minutes.
The Connemara breed comes from County Galway in Ireland and today they are used mostly as sports ponies, competing in show jumping, dressage and eventing events. Eventing is an an equestrian event where a single horse and rider combine and compete against other competitors across the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. Connemara’s are known for their stamina in endurance riding.
Kim Childs and John Beck came up with the idea of bringing “Bander” from her home at Ivy Rock Farm in New Windsor to Wingate, for a very special visit.
Childs runs a non profit organization called “Making Strides Therapeutic Horsemanship,” an all-inclusive program that helps those with mental or physical handicaps, social or learning disabilities or have special needs.
“Right now with things on pause we can’t have riding lessons...and I thought it would be a good idea to bring a pony around to nursing homes since the residents can’t have visitors and we wanted to start a program to bring some cheer,” Childs said. “The name we came up with is ‘Visiting Hooves’ and we go specifically to Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities and just spread smiles, joy and hope.”
Childs said Wingate’s Activities Director, Laura Megna, let the residents know about Bander’s impending visit.
“Laura said they were very excited and they were waiting and waiting for Friday to come,” she said.
Childs said the impact at nursing homes has been amazing.
“If you connect anyone with a horse, it doesn’t matter if they have disabilities or not, magic just happens between the two of them” she said.
Childs said her daughters, Jenna, Danica and Bethany, “love volunteering with me whenever they can.” Her daughters assist in the visits rather than having her other volunteers simply out of an abundance of caution during this health crisis.
Childs thanked Ivy Rock Farm for allowing her to run her special therapeutic program and the outreach to nursing homes. She said people can find them on Facebook at Making Strides Therapeutic Horsemanship or at their website makingstridesth.org to make a donation.