Captain Commands the Affections of Residents with Dementia

Residents of a specialist dementia care home in Wellington, Somerset, have been thoroughly enjoying themselves in the company of Captain, an Irish Cob horse, who was brought to visit them in the garden of the home.

The idea of inviting the special equine guest was inspired by conversations between members of the activities team and residents of Camelot House and Lodge which revealed that several people had memories of growing up on or around farms in Somerset.

Activities co-ordinator, Richard Dempslake, said: “Many of our residents are animal-lovers and a visit like this brings them so much pleasure. To stroke Captain and enjoy his response is a real treat.

“Even the smell of a horse is a form of therapy and brings back treasured memories for many of them.”

Residents fed him slices of apples and carrots and laughed at the tickling sensation caused when Captain put his lips on their hands to gather the treats.

They also had the chance to groom him, using brushes provided by his owner Claire Wilkinson, who has been looking after the 20 year-old horse since he retired in 2017.

Claire Wilkinson said: “Captain worked for most of his life at a trekking centre in the Quantocks. He is RDA trained – that is riding for the disabled – and that alone shows what his temperament is like.

“He is so gentle – great with everyone, from children right up to elderly. He has lots and lots of patience and absolutely nothing phases him. He’s like a big cuddly teddy bear, absolutely loves lots of fuss.

“It’s such a pleasure to bring him on outings like this and spread the joy.”

The animal encounter took place outside in the ‘Albert Square’ garden of Camelot House and Lodge, where marquees were erected in case of a change in the weather.

Richard Dempslake said: “Everyone had so much fun with Captain that we’ve managed to find a therapy sheep for them to meet in the near future.

“The residents always enjoy visits from animals, which we are able to arrange quite frequently, and for those who have farming roots these events are particularly special. It’s lovely to see.”

Captain originally came from Ireland and is a small (16 hands) solidly-built horse of the breed commonly associated with Traveller community