It’s not often you see a majestic Clydesdale trotting through the corridors of an aged care home.
But it was a sight to behold for residents at MercyCare Maddington Residential Aged Care Home, who were buzzing with excitement when therapy horse Black Jack recently paid them a visit.
Standing at more than 1.7m tall, the nine-year-old rare blue roan Clydesdale had no qualms being the centre of attention. It’s all in a day’s work for Black Jack, who has spent the past two-and-a-half years brightening the lives of aged care residents, hospital patients and people with disabilities.
Maddington residents flocked to see the gentle giant up close, with many reaching out to stroke his silky mane —one resident even serenading him with a Hungarian ballad. In return, Black Jack was rewarded with his favourite treat – carrots.
MercyCare Maddington Service Manager Michele Murdoch said Black Jack’s visit was well-received by residents, who were eager to pat and feed the majestic Clydesdale.
“To see their faces light up when he walked around the home was just so magical,” she said.
From lifting mood and reducing stress to encouraging more social interaction, the benefits of therapy-assisted animals like Black Jack have long been known to enhance the mental and physical wellbeing of aged care residents.
“For people living with dementia, research has shown therapy animals are an excellent way to reduce stress and improve mood. Bringing Black Jack today not only brings joy to our residents but also improves their health and wellbeing,” Ms Murdoch said.
Black Jack’s heart-warming visit is among many engaging experiences that form the backdrop of MercyCare’s person-centred lifestyle therapy program, which aims to improve wellbeing and bring a sense of joy to residents across the organisation’s aged care homes.
“We want our residents to live their best life here, so part of that is understanding what each of our residents enjoy and is interested in so we can tailor our activities and programs so they bring joy and meaning to each individual resident,” she said.
Owner and Equine Assisted Learning Practitioner Sue George — who runs therapy animal service, In the Company of Horses — says being hand-reared from birth has helped prepare Black Jack for life as a therapy horse.
“Clydesdale horses are known as gentle giants — they’re cold-blooded, so they’re much quieter in temperament than race horses,” she said.
“He loves the attention, and it actually calms him when he meets the residents. Sometimes it can be a challenge to get him to leave.”
Following his visit to Maddington, Black Jack made a pitstop at MercyCare Kelmscott Residential Aged Care Home, much to the surprise of excited residents.