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Shetland ponies for therapy in nursing homes

Global Goals & Global Society
Shetland ponies for therapy in nursing homes

Animals can have a therapeutic effect: Andrea Tigges-Angelidis regularly brings a bit of variety into the monotonous daily routine of German home residents with her Shetland ponies.

Four hooves clatter across the hallway of the nursing home. Andrea Tigges-Angelidis leads a brown Shetland pony by the halter and knocks on a room door. "Hello, do you want a visitor? The ponies are in the house again today," she calls, then carefully opens the door. Inside the room, Dieter Fröbe is lying in his bed. The old man is visibly moved at the sight of the little horse. "I'm quite surprised. That's great," he says quietly. "This is Paulinchen," says Tigges-Angelidis. The animal takes a small step forward. The eighty-nine-year-old says, "Well, my darling," and strokes the animal's soft brown fur.

On this wintry afternoon, Tigges-Angelidis has loaded two ponies into her trailer and driven with them to the nursing home in Sachsenhausen, Germany. She makes her rounds here about once a month. Then she visits various wards and moves from room to room with the animals. "These mini-shetties simply give feelings of happiness, beautiful moments and positive moments," says the fifty-six-year-old, who works full-time as an educator. "Some residents cry with happiness when we come."

Not every pony is suitable

Home staff member Sarah Rogage also sees time and again how much her elderly charges look forward to seeing the animals. "For many, the visit of the ponies is always a real highlight", a welcome change in the otherwise usually monotonous, always the same daily routine. Of course, not all residents have a "connection" to the horses, "but many are happy because they themselves used to have animals and couldn't take them into the home."

Sitting on the bench in front of the elevators is home resident Christine Müller, with Toffee, the second Shetland pony, standing in front of her. The seventy-seven-year-old laughs, puts her arms around the calm animal and kisses it on its white coat. The East German, who has been living in the Frankfurt nursing home for several years, has no fear of contact. Full of joy, she tells of a horse farm near Gotha where she used to be active. "I always have to watch out for Mrs. Müller because she has disappeared twice with a pony in her room," says Tigges-Angelidis.

Not every pony is suitable for such visits to a home, the training of the animals for this task takes at least a year, reports the expert, who also visits daycare centers and accompanies severely disabled people with her therapy animals - in addition to the ponies, these include owls and birds of prey, among others. "The ponies have to be incredibly friendly and patient," says Tigges-Angelidis, describing the requirement profile. And they have to learn to get used to things that are unusual for them: narrow elevators or clattering dish carts, for example. And, of course, to the constant touching and hugging.

. Loneliness and depression are global problems that can be solved with the solutions like this from the global society. Not only will human lives be improved but also Sustainable Development Goals be achieved.

Dogs are also used again and again as therapy animals For example, by the "Tröstende Pfoten" association in Flörsheim in the Main-Taunus district, which supports and organizes the training of therapy dogs throughout Germany. These animals are then used in homes or by private individuals in palliative work, reports palliative nurse Ivana Seger, who founded the association six years ago. She says the animals have a special sense for people and often have an enormous calming effect on patients. "In the often difficult and sad situations, when many relatives are at a loss for words, the dogs can do incredible things just by being there." And like Andrea Tigges-Angelidis' ponies, they provide a bit of joy.

Patients with mental illnesses or seniors who live in facilities, frequently report feeling deprived of their independence, ability to make decisions, and capacity to engage in social activities. They typically have few or no visitors and don't have a reason to survive. Global society has found one possible solution to improve mental health and well-being of human kind. Animals may improve psychiatric patients' happiness and quality of life. Alternative therapy methods can help the civil society in different ways and also give the lives of the animals a new meaning. This can be challenging but relevant and interesting to start further investigations and programs.


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