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Ponies giving comfort to people with disabilities in Meopham

By Lizzie Massey

There is nothing better than a warm cuddle with a fluffy friend, from their soft coats to their loving eyes... and their hooves.

Pony therapy has come to Gravesend thanks to married couple Lyn and Simon Blight, and their two miniature Shetland ponies Bobby and Quinn.

It is already big in America and it works in much the same way as therapy with dogs; they are trained to be affectionate and comforting to help people with learning difficulties, physical disabilities, hospital patients, those in nursing homes and hospices.

Sydney Kell, 14, Bella Rabjohns, 8, Tere the horse, Sophia Kell, 14, Liam McAllen, 7, and Lucy Graves, 12, with mini Shetland ponies, Bobby and Quinn.

But to fund the insurance this requires, the couple have started offering Pony Parties so the fluffy four-leggers can be enjoyed by anybody.

From £35 an hour, both miniatures – or one mini and Tere, a little white pony which can be ridden – will go to children’s parties or school fetes to be petted and cuddled.

The minis are half-sister and brother and at 10 months old, although fully grown, still have much to learn and are in training.

Lyn, 33, said: “Ponies make excellent therapy animals because they are naturally passive. They don’t bound up to people like dogs.

“As well as paying for the insurance, children’s parties are a great way for them to get used to being in different environments and keeping calm during unexpected noises, movements and shouting.

“In turn when they are around children with behavioural issues like ADHA, the ponies passiveness works to calm them too.”

Bella Rabjohns, 8 and Lucy Graves, 12, with Bobby and Quinn.

Lyn and Simon, 40, have been together three years and have a 22-month-old daughter, Lilly. Lyn also has a son Liam, seven, from a previous marriage.

The horses, based in Meopham, require constant care and Lyn, a piano teacher, said: “We couldn’t do this without the support of friends and family.

“We don’t get holidays. I can’t remember the last time we went out for dinner, but when we see people’s faces lift around the horses it re-enforces why we doing it.

“We went to one care home recently and one of the women absolutely fell in love with Quinn. She was besotted, cuddling her and smiling. Then the staff there said it was the first time she had smiled in a year. That’s just incredible.”

Simon has been around horses all his life and was a professional show jumper at one stage, but five years ago was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and as his condition has deteriorated rapidly his relationship with horses had to change.

Lyn Blight with miniature Shetland ponies Bobby and Quinn

Now suffering with crippling neurological pain and fatigue, Simon is unable to work and or look after Lilly on his own so throws himself into the ponies.

Lyn added: “He never lets on how much he suffers but the ponies are fantastic for him, they give him a reason to get up and do things in the morning, even if it’s just overseeing a hay delivery.”

The couple met when Lyn turned up at Simon’s yard looking for somewhere to ride.

Simon said: “I was really struggling to keep it together and was just about to give it all up when Lyn came. She saved it.”

Simon still has his own horses, including Rico who he competes in dressage shows and recently qualified on for the Riding for the Disabled Association’s National Championships held this summer.

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