Two United Kingdom Shetland ponies walking down the halls of a hospital, might seem unusual. But after two visits from Centers Health Care's "Happy Horse Tour," it's safe to say patients and hospital staff at Erie County Medical Center are hoping it becomes a regular thing.
The ponies that visited Wednesday afternoon were named Quinton and Lily, and they spent time with patients on the rehab floor of the hospital.
"Most people are really suffering when they're here, so this helps," Dave Stefanski said.
He and his wife are recovering from a motorcycle accident. Their granddaughter Vanessa was at the hospital visiting them. She also got to enjoy the ponies while they were around.
Centers Health Care tells Channel 2 what makes a pony or mini-horse a great therapy animal is their calm demeanor. They also like the attention.
But it takes a lot of training to get the animals ready for the hospital setting. It's a 90 minute visit, so the horses also need to be healthy.
Centers Health Care mini-horse tours are common throughout parts of New York State and New Jersey. Tours happen three to four times a week at different locations. But this program just recently started in Western New York. Over the past two months they have been visiting nursing homes. And now ECMC is on their tour schedule.
We're told the "Happy Horse Tour" will take a break over the winter months. The program will resume in the spring. Due to popularity, Centers Health Care tells Channel 2 they're considering expanding the program to more locations for this coming summer.