Therapy Ponies Are Bringing ‘Comfort and Joy’ to Dementia Patients

libertygal/iStock via Getty Images
libertygal/iStock via Getty Images

Elaine and John Sangster are proving that sometimes, a pony’s place is in the house, hospital, or nursing home. Together, the husband-and-wife team run Therapy Ponies Scotland, an organization that brings Shetland ponies to homes and hospices throughout Scotland so that dementia patients and other residents can experience the restorative effects of the adorable animals.

“You walk into their bedroom with a pony and their faces just light up,” Elaine told Horse & Hound. “Sometimes you see people who never come out of their room sprinting down the corridor with their Zimmer frames!”

Lyn Irvine, a nurse consultant for Alzheimer Scotland and NHS Grampian (the regional public healthcare board), explained the mental health benefits of spending time with the ponies. “The interaction with the ponies often helps stimulate a positive social response … and minimizes stress and distress. The animals provide comfort, joy, and a sense of excitement,” she told Horse & Hound. It can also boost morale for the patients’ families, and Elaine said that patients' relatives often do plan their visits to coincide with the ponies' arrival.

Elaine said that sometimes a facility's staff isn’t quite sure what to expect of the Sangsters' brood before their first visit, which isn’t totally surprising; managing eight ponies indoors is quite a massive undertaking. But the couple has owned the majority of the herd since foalhood, so they’ve thoroughly trained them to be comfortable and obedient during home visits. They also groom them to perfection.

According to Elaine, the ponies are ”teddy-bear soft to the touch and smell beautiful.” They also attach “‘whoops-a-daisy’ bags” to the ponies’ rear ends, so that they don’t sully their stay with any defecatory disasters. “Every time we go into a care home people can’t believe how well-behaved and calm they are—we are so proud of them we could burst.” Staff members often ask the Sangsters for repeat bookings before the first visit has even ended.

Elaine and John have 15 ponies in total, and usually take eight to each visit. This gives all of the animals enough days off to prance about in their pen as they please.

Are you wishing there was a pony nearby so that you, too, could experience its therapeutic effects? If there isn't one within arm's reach, you could always try petting a cat or dog instead.

[h/t Horse & Hound]

Journey to the Monarch Mosh Pit

iStock/Spondylolithesis
iStock/Spondylolithesis

Each fall, millions of migrating monarchs return to Mexico to wait out winter. The gathering makes Woodstock look like a business conference. Here’s how they get there.

Mosh Pit

In the mountains of central Mexico, the butterflies crowd on the branches of oyamel fir trees. The trees provide a perfect microclimate that prevents the butterflies from getting too hot or cold.

Texas Toast

After winter, the butterflies fly north to Texas in search of milkweed, where they lay their eggs. Many adults will die here; northbound monarchs generally live only three to seven weeks.

Juice Cleanse

One of the reasons monarchs love milkweed? Protection. As caterpillars, they absorb the toxins in the plant, which makes them less tasty to birds.

Connecting Flight

Eventually, a new generation of butterflies will make its way north to Canada. It takes multiple generations of butterflies to reach their final, most northerly destination.

Dine and Dash

On the way, butterflies will eat practically anything. Sure, there’s nectar—but they’ll also slurp the salts in mud.

Catching Air

When fall returns, a new generation of monarchs rides the air currents more than 3000 miles back to Mexico. They navigate by calibrating their body clocks with the position of the sun. (An internal magnetic compass helps them navigate on cloudy days.)

Latitude Adjustment

Monarchs “are one of the few creatures on Earth that can orient themselves both in latitude and longitude,” The New York Times reports—a feat sailors wouldn’t accomplish until the 1700s.

Southern Charm

Miraculously, each generation of southbound monarchs lives up to eight months—six times longer than their northbound descendants. Their longevity might have something to do with a process known as reproductive diapause (which is a fancy way of saying that the insects won’t breed until winter ends).

This Rolling Smart Robot Will Keep Your Cat Company and Help It Exercise, Even When You’re Not Home

Ebo
Ebo

As any true ailurophile knows, cats love to sleep. On average, kitties spend anywhere from 16 to 20 hours of each day napping. But that laziness we often find so charming can sometimes lead to obesity, which can cause some pretty serious health problems for your feline friend. So how do you make sure your cat stays happy and healthy, even when you’re not home? That’s where Ebo comes (or rolls) in.

Ebo is a smart robot designed to keep your cat company and provide them with some much-needed stimulation, especially when you're not around. With more than $90,000 in pledges raised already, Ebo crushed its original $5110 Kickstarter goal, but you can still back the project here, with pledge tiers that start at $159 for a standard EBO and a smart collar that tracks your cat’s activity levels.

The Ebo itself, which is just over two inches tall, connects to Wi-Fi and features an app that allows you to schedule when you want it to start and stop playing with your cat.

When it’s playtime, the tiny robot scans the room to ensure there’s enough space to play safely. Once it makes sure the coast is clear, the robot moves on its own, utilizing an ergonomic design that enables it to wheel in any direction, spin, roll over, or even dance. You also don’t need to worry about keeping your cat’s robot friend charged. If your Ebo happens to be running low on battery, it rolls itself back to its charging station until it’s ready to go again.

According to the designers, Ebo interacts with cats in a way your feline friend understands—through a mix of sound, movement, and light that is always unpredictable. You can even play with your cat through the Ebo with its built-in laser.

The app also allows you to monitor your cat through video. And if they do something cute—as they always do—you can easily snap a photo or shoot a video, edit it, add fun filters, and then share it with others.

The device’s smart collar can be used for up to 30 days on a single charge. Should it get stuck, there’s a safety mode in which it will be released automatically to prevent accidental choking.

If you want an upgrade, there's the Ebo Pro (starting at $199), which features an AI algorithm that analyzes your cat’s mood and motion and adapts for future play.

No matter which Ebo you choose, they all come full of accessories, including decorative soldier, bamboo, onion, or feather caps. And if you order in time, you can snag a model decked out in a Santa hat.

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