TV show features hospice work of therapy shetlands

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Supervet Professor Noel Fitzpatrick with Dame Maggie and Princess Rose at the Heart of Kent Hospice in Aylesford.
Supervet Professor Noel Fitzpatrick with Dame Maggie and Princess Rose at the Heart of Kent Hospice in Aylesford. © Blue Cross

Patients at a hospice in Kent received a special visit from a pair of former Blue Cross Shetland ponies as part of Channel 4 TV series Animal Rescue Live Supervet Special.

The two ponies, Dame Maggie and Princess Rose, joined Supervet Professor Noel Fitzpatrick to meet patients and their families on the Inpatient Unit at Heart of Kent Hospice in Aylesford. They also met patients and their family who were visiting the hospice for a Making Memories dementia group which runs activities and provides support.

Dame Maggie and Princess Rose were rehomed by Alex Taskin who owns a group called Equilibrium for Life. The Kent-based group uses equine-assisted learning to support vulnerable individuals with the Shetlands visiting care homes, hospitals and hospices around the country, as well as working with children’s groups.

Taskin rehomed the two ponies from national charity Blue Cross’s rehoming centre in Burford, Oxfordshire. The ponies came into Blue Cross care as their former owner could no longer look after them.

“We adopted Maggie and her daughter Rose three years ago. We soon found that these two have a very special talent, we realised they were so empathetic, so we started introducing them to therapeutic work with some autistic clients, as well as students from the London Pupil Referral Unit, who are unable to attend mainstream school,” Taskin said.

“This was just a small step to start taking them into a hospice – which is where the magic really happens. The happiness and solace they bring to everyone in this environment is so special. Everyone leaves with a smile on their face.”

Noel Fitzpatrick with Alan and Dame Maggie and Princess Rose at the Heart of Kent Hospice in Aylesford.
Supervet Professor Noel Fitzpatrick with Alan and Dame Maggie and Princess Rose at the Heart of Kent Hospice in Aylesford. © Blue Cross

Rosie Mogford, Senior Horse Rehoming Manager at Blue Cross, said the shetlands demonstrated the different way rescue animals really can help people. “It’s fantastic to see the Shetlands providing such wonderful moments and memories to people of all ages across the country.”

Kerry Harrison, Heart of Kent Hospice’s Patient Services Director, said therapy ponies were one of the ways that the hospice provided therapeutic and sensory benefits to patients and families living and coming to terms with a diagnosis of a terminal illness. “Noel went out of his way to really spend quality time with everyone and his visit will be a lasting memory for many.”

The visit featured on Animal Rescue Live on Channel 4 on August 14.

Noel Fitzpatrick with Alan and Dame Maggie and Princess Rose at the Heart of Kent Hospice in Aylesford.
Noel Fitzpatrick with Alan and Dame Maggie and Princess Rose at the Heart of Kent Hospice in Aylesford. © Blue Cross

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