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Therapy Shetland pony helps stroke patients feel better

22 January 2020

A therapeutic pony named Secret visited the Stroke Unit at Southend University Hospital on Monday 20 January.

A therapeutic pony named Secret visited the Stroke Unit at Southend University Hospital on Monday 20 January. 

The four year old Bay Shetland pony, which stands 10 hands tall, that's almost 3.5 feet high, was accompanied by her owner, Nikki Birch, from The Ramblers Riding Club in Leigh-on-Sea. The pair were the 'mane' attraction on Benfleet and Paglesham wards, spending time on the wards with patients who are recovering from a stroke.

One of the first patients that welcomed Secret was Nasreen Janjua, from Westcliff. She practically leapt from her chair to be near the pony and gave him a lovely fuss. She said: "I never imagined we'd have a pony on the ward, this is such a lovely surprise! It's brought back a lot of happy memories from when I was growing up. It's magical!"

Trevor Bradly, from Benfleet, was another patient who got to give Secret some welcome fuss. His daughter, Charlotte Robinson, from Surrey, couldn't quite believe what she was seeing. She said: "I've just finished a 16 hour night shift, so thought I was seeing things at first, but this visit has just raised everyone's spirits. I've not seen dad smile like this for a few days. Such a brilliant idea."

And although it's a fun visit, there was also a serious side to it as well. Ward Manager, Karis Reeve, explained: "Wonderful visits like this help break up the routine for patients. Due to having a stroke, lots of our patients have sensory deficits, so that means they may have lost the use of one of their arms, legs or even one side of their face. But this encourages them to try and touch or smile. Even if they can't, you can certainly see the smile in their eyes."

The plan now is that Secret, Nikki and Natalie Shepherd and Rebecca Harris, also from The Ramblers Riding Club, will be paying regular visits to other parts of the hospital on a monthly basis.


Notes to editors

Therapeutic animals regularly visit patients in Southend Hospital as such visits can have positive effects on patients' recovery. A full infection control and risk assessment is undertaken before therapy animals visit the wards.



l-rSecret; Nasreen Janjua, from Westcliff; Ward Manager, Karis Reeve and Secret's owner Nikki Birch.