Rupert horses about at Telford residential home

[gallery] You don't expect to find a 16-year-old in a nursing home, but one young character has become a firm favourite with the residents of an establishment in Telford.

Rupert horses about at Telford residential home

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You don't expect to find a 16-year-old in a nursing home, but one young character has become a firm favourite with the residents of an establishment in Telford.

Rupert quickly impressed the people living at the Birkdale Residential Home after calling in to say hello.

Click on the image to the right for photos from the visit

People liked his friendly manner, lovely, velvety coat and impressive skills with a football, which he was only too happy to show off in the lounge.

And the fact that he's a horse only adds to his charm.

Rupert, who is 14 hands tall, has begun to pay regular visits to the home in Oakengates after his trainer, Elaine Whalley, suggested that he could be therapeutic for residents.

Care home manager Sarah Patten admits she was sceptical at first, but after asking the residents what they thought, she decided to take up Miss Whalley's offer of a visit.

"Initially we just thought no, but we spoke to the residents and staff and they wanted to try it," she said. It's been particularly successful with the residents who have dementia. They can have problems communicating, but they can communicate with Rupert. It's worked really well.

"I think there were a few surprises when he came in. Some people were expecting a Shetland Pony, not a 14-hand-high horse.

"And we were a bit worried about what would happen if he wanted to spend a very large penny, but he tells Elaine when he needs to go and she takes him outside into the garden."

Rupert, who was rescued from being sent to Beeston meat market five years ago, has proved a big hit.

Resident Edith Bates said: "I think he's fantastic. He's got a lovely coat. It's like velvet. He's really marvellous. I love animals and it's really lovely having him in."

And visitor Mick Pagett said that he was surprised to see Rupert in the residents' lounge when he dropped in to see his mum, Hazel.

"We came through the gate and wondered what it was," he said. "I never thought they'd bring a horse inside."

Mrs Pagett said the visit brought back memories of her youth on a farm.

"My mum used to do the baking and I used to go and sit by the horses," she said. "My mother would say 'where's she gone now?' and I'd be sitting by the horses."

Miss Whalley said Rupert is a favourite everywhere she has taken him, and he has even braved the lift of a care home in Lawley to visit one bedbound resident.

She added: "I got the idea after seeing how my gran, who's got Alzheimer's, reacted to him. He means the world to her and she gets so much from seeing him I thought it was a shame more people couldn't have that experience."

By Pam Griffin

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