‘Cuddle therapy’ ponies help bring joy to patients and staff at local hospice

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Mouse and Teddy are Cuddle Therapy Ponies. Image: Sue Ryder
Mouse and Teddy are Cuddle Therapy Ponies. Image: Sue Ryder

The patients and staff of Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice in Moggerhanger were excited to be greeted by two very special guests recently, when Teddy and Mouse, a pair of ‘cuddle therapy ponies’ came for a visit. 

Those being cared for at the hospice, as well as their families and Sue Ryder staff were given the chance to pet, brush and interact with the placid pair.

This therapy has been shown to decrease stress, reduce anxiety, and encourage socialisation.

The visit was part of Keysoe International’s Community Interest Company the Keysoe Cuddle Therapy Ponies, which aims to bring joy and comfort to those in hospices, hospitals, and care homes through these special pony encounters.

Sarah Woodhouse, 54, had been receiving care at the Moggerhanger Sue Ryder Hospice for the last ten days. She was due to go home the day the ponies visited but shared her joy of being able to capture a moment with them.

Cuddle Therapy Ponies bringing joy to patients at St John's Hospice. Image: Sue Ryder
Cuddle Therapy Ponies bringing joy to patients at St John’s Hospice. Image: Sue Ryder

“I have cancer at the bottom of my spine and in my liver,” she said.

“I was in horrendous pain and was feeling so overwhelmed until I came to the hospice.

“It was brilliant to see the ponies. I have never had anything like that before. I was horse-mad when I was a kid, so it was nice. Animals lift your spirits; it gave me such a boost seeing them.

“They have been fantastic here at the hospice. They have time for you, I couldn’t have wished for a better stay.”

Frances Murray, head of education and animal welfare at Keysoe International, said: “The visit was heartwarming for all involved.

“Each pony spent time with the patients in the beautiful surroundings and brought joy and positivity wherever they went.  

“It was lovely to meet so many hospice staff too, who work tirelessly to provide the most amazing, individualised support and around-the-clock care. 

“The team felt privileged to be able to attend and said they have the best job in the world – which I agree with!

“The ponies can bring such joy in difficult times. They are non-judgmental, great listeners, and just the sweetest to have around and simply stroke or talk to. We are very much looking forward to visiting again in the future.”

Cuddle Therapy Ponies Image Sue Ryder
Cuddle Therapy Ponies. Image: Sue Ryder

Jacqui Ackroyd, ward manager at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice, said: “Pet therapy at the hospice is invaluable because whatever the patient is going through it takes them away from it all for a while.

“One patient said to me, ‘I can’t tell you what it has meant to me today’.”

Keysoe International will be further supporting the palliative and bereavement support charity as they host the next Sue Ryder Grief Kind Space in Bedfordshire. 

The new space will open on Tuesday, 25 June, 10am to 12pm, offering free and impartial peer-to-peer bereavement support.