A miniature Shetland made a surprise visit to meet a former racehorse owner and trainer at an East Sussex care home last week.

Staff at Sunrise of Eastbourne organised for Bailey, an eight-year-old mare, to spend some time with 88-year-old resident Betty Burchett on 10 February.

The diminutive equine spent more than an hour with residents before spending some time with Betty.

“Bailey paid a special visit to Betty’s bedroom, coming right beside her bed to be stroked,” said a Sunrise spokesman.

“Bailey’s entrance made Betty’s face light up, and she was smiling and laughing as she stroked her.”

Shetland care home

Betty, who has had horses all her life and once owned and trained racehorses, started to become very frail at the end of last year and was declining food and drink.

Her designated care assistant Emma Draper then had the idea to take her on a visit to a yard in December — prior to Bailey’s visit — to try and lift her spirits.

“Upon hearing that Betty’s one wish would be to run her hands through a horse’s fur one more time, the pair struck a deal,” added the spokesman.

“They agreed that Betty’s wish could become a reality and that a trip to a nearby stable would be arranged, if Betty was able to eat the food she needed to build up the strength to go.”

A few weeks later they took the trip to spend time with horses at a nearby stables.

“Betty was overwhelmed by the incredible day and how special it felt to be reunited with the horses,” said the spokesman.

“She took a few strands of hay as a momentum to remember the precious day, which she now keeps in her room, which is adorned with photographs of her winning horses from racecourses around the country.”

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Fiona White, general manager at Sunrise of Eastbourne, said the transformation in Betty has been “incredible”.

“She is a new person, and the sparkle is back in her eye. Sometimes it’s the little things that mean so much to our residents and families,” said Ms White.

“We are so proud of Emma, who constantly goes above and beyond her duty to look after residents and ensure that their lives are enriched with the things they love.

“Emma selflessly going the extra mile epitomises the culture of care here at Sunrise of Eastbourne, and we are delighted that Betty has had such a special few days.”