The senior residents at an Erina nursing home got quite a surprise when two draft horses and a cowboy popped in for a friendly neighborhood visit.
The pair of stunning Clydesdale horses — usually more at home pulling a cart or plowing fields than hanging out at a nursing home — took a tour through Tarragal House, even popping into some of the residents’ rooms.
“We don’t get to see many horses in here,” 91-year-old resident Betty Nichols said as five-year-old Sonny and Lenny, eight, were led through the home’s carpeted lobby by fellow resident Joe Cappello.
“I used to go the races, but I never got this close to a horse,” commented Mr. Cappello as he said hello to the two giant workhorses.
Tarragal House nursing home resident Joe Cappello, 95, meets Clydesdale horses Lenny (left) and Sonny. Picture: Troy Snook
He may be a towering 16 hands high and weigh 750kg, but that doesn’t stop gentle giant Lenny from also squeezing into resident Warwick Oates’ room for a pat.
While older horse Lenny has visited many nursing homes and schools, it was the first time for Sonny.
“Lenny’s been into a bar and even a lift before, but this was the first time Sonny had been inside a building,” said bush poet and Clydesdale owner Gary Cullen, who also gave a talk on the horses to the residents.
But the younger horse took it all in his stride, welcoming attention from staff and residents.
Mr Cullen said the gentle nature of the breed makes them ideal for showing to elderly people and schoolchildren.
He has owned Clydesdales for eight years and also enters them in competitions at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and other events.
“There might be someone who has handled horses before, but because of their condition or dementia no-one, knows. And then they meet the horses and all the memories come flooding back and they know immediately what to do.”
HOW TO SPOT A CLYDESDALE
■ One of the most distinctive characteristics of Clydesdales is the long hair around their ankles, called the feather that is thought to have been developed to help them through the cold Scottish winters
■ In the past, Clydesdales were used for pulling farm equipment, and later as war horses
■ A distinguishing mark of Clydesdales are their “striped” hoofs.
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