A big-hearted therapy pony is continuing to help sick and disabled children at the ripe old age of 24.
Paediatric chiropractor Alison Ramseier took in the pony 16 years ago, when she first spotted his “magic touch” with children. The chestnut gelding inspired her to set up a riding school for children with disabilities and special needs.
“I had treated a few kids with disabilities and they couldn’t raise their hands,” said Alison.
“The second they walked past Dillon’s stable, which was next to the chiropractic room, they would be able to.
“That’s when I first started to think about equine therapy.”
He became a popular annual visitor to Worcester Children’s Hospital around Christmas time, dressed as a reindeer to help Santa deliver presents.
“During his visits all sorts of children would come out — those excited and happy, and those wheelchair-bound, drips in arms and possibly experiencing their last Christmas,” added Alison.
“Dillon gave his all to every one of these kids. He was sometimes a little worried by the machinery, but he understood his job and still offered kisses and cuddles, bringing a smile to their face at Christmas, and a tear to all those watching.”
Dillon has now “hung up his hooves” on hospital visits as he finds travelling difficult, but continues to help children at his equine therapy school home in Staffordshire.
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He works with fellow Blue Cross pony Sky to help in a number of ways.
These include therapeutic and sensory work, such as grooming and mucking out, as well as riding.
“We have kids that can’t walk very well, but the movement in the pelvis that horse riding can bring means they build up strength, developing their core and finding their centre of balance,” said Alison.
“The movement, as well as the contact with the horse, also stimulates oxytocin [an anxiety-alleviating hormone] in the brain which will also calm children.”
Blue Cross horse welfare coordinator Sally Forskett said Dillon has “thrived” in Alison’s care.
“It has been lovely to see the difference he has made to so many children’s lives,” she said.
“We are very pleased that Alison has agreed to take ownership of Dillon and he will stay with her for the rest of his days, continuing to help children.”
Dillon and Sky also play the role of “granddad and grandma” to the younger ponies at Alison’s yard, including two other rehomed horses who are in training for therapy work.
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