The Shetland ponies at Kasey’s Cast-A-Ways are once again making their yearly rounds to nursing homes all across the Northeast.
Certified and trained for five years at Personal Ponies in Lakeland, GA, Cast-A-Way’s owner and therapy pony handler Lisa Cole leases these lovable ponies, touring them across roughly 42 facilities a month.
Kasey’s Cast-A-Ways, started out with animals like baby goats, bunnies and lambs who were abandoned, or cast away, by their previous owners.
Named after Cole’s daughter who herself has a disability, this business venture allowed Cole to work around her needs while also helping others in amazing ways. Now touring nursing homes, she started in the pony business by visiting other places like children’s hospitals.
The certified therapy ponies are 28 to 33 inches tall, and visit the nursing homes dolled in little hair bows and ‘Build-a-Bear’ looking shoes for safety, Cole said.
One pony is transported by van to a facility, and residents get to meet either Cupid, Rosebudd, Willow, Dougen, Nappy, Prince, Frost, or Tucker at their visit, as Cole rotates the ponies doing the visit each time.
Cole pays for all expenses, from transportation and gas to their feed and all necessary equipment, as she operates this business year-round.
“I just dress them up, put on their safety shoes and then bring them inside, going from room to room,” she said.
“If the facilities grouped them up, I do a circle around the group.”
She said some places require gloves, while others prefer her to introduce the ponies through a window or outside, but all visits are no longer than an hour and 15 minutes for the wellbeing of the horse.
“They are trained to put their nose on the lap of the wheelchair or put their nose on the bed and they will stay there until they are told otherwise,” Cole explained.
“The residents are usually amazed and surprised that there is a pony in their room,” she added. “They say, ‘I can’t believe there is a pony on their lap!’ or ‘It’s amazing!’”
“The pony will then usually close his eyes. And of course I will say, ‘It’s because he likes you,’” Cole laughed.
For residents with memory care problems, Cole said each visit might feel like their first with a pony, although Cole typically visits nursing homes on a monthly basis.
Among her repeat clients are Centers Healthcare facilities in Rhode Island and New York. At press time, her next destination was the Adirondacks, where she planned to visit Tarrytown Hall in Tarrytown and Mountain View in Muncin.
There are only about 500 personal ponies across the country, according to Cole, and these lovable animals have a very important job.
“Two feet move the body, but four feet move the soul,” said Cole, reflecting on how important and wonderful it is to be able to brighten someone’s day.