Everyone knows that animals can have amazing healing powers. To this end hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes often have routine visits from dogs and cats. Sometimes even miniature horses have been brought in to visit retirement homes. But in Dijon, France, hospitals and retirement homes allow a full-sized horse come to check in on the patients and give them some extra love and kindness -- often in their final hours.
Image via Eventing Nation
Peyo, an award-winning 14-year-old stallion, visits hospitals twice a month. This may sound unsanitary to many, but rather severe precautions are taken in advance of his entrance into the building. The strict protocol includes his mane and tail being braided, greased hooves, an antibacterial lotion applied to his entire body, and being covered with a blanket.
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While his owner, Hassen Bouchakour, is with Peyo at all times, the horse is given free rein to go where he wants to and he has an innate talent for choosing to go into patient rooms where people need him most. This often means that he is visiting those who are the sickest or dying. A sort of silent communication seems to spring up even with those who can no longer speak.
Image via Theault
Peyo, whose background is in artistic dressage, has no fear of being in a strange place and even the elevators don't seem to faze him. He is totally at home as he cruises the halls. His gentle manner is soothing, engaging, and friendly. Even his relationship with Bouchakour is also amazing. They are extremely close and have an intimate understanding of one another.
Check out the video below to see for yourself how he interacts with humans in his intuitive way:
Patients who tend to be angry and aggressive become calm. Patients who don't want to walk anymore start walking. Patients who don't speak suddenly find words. Some of the ladies in senior homes even go to the hairdresser the day before Peyo comes so that they will look their best. The medical staffs call it magical.
When Bouchakour first started training Peyo things weren't going well. It was to the point that he had put the horse up for sale. Then one day things just clicked and they finally understood one another. As they traveled together for shows Bouchakour noticed that the horse was drawn to interact with the disabled. The normally fiery animal would become gentle at their touch.
Image via YouTube
After Bouchakour lost someone close to him he decided to take Peyo on a new adventure for both of them For three years they trained to get Peyo used to walking calmly on different surfaces and get used to a lot of noise. Most importantly, he needed to be able to take care of his "needs' when told to -- in other words, he was housebroken.
Image via TodayFM
This should really not be too surprising since therapeutic horseback riding has been established for disabled people for decades. This is just a different approach that doesn't require people to be in the saddle to interact with the animal.
Oh, and if the name Peyo sounds vaguely familiar to you, it is also the name of the Belgian man who created the Smurfs. Another soul who sometimes dealt with "the blues."