Petie the pony is just tall enough so that his face can reach the face of a child in a hospital bed. He approaches the bed easily and slowly, so that the child can reach out and pet his nose or his ears or mane. He keeps his eyes downcast as if to not scare the child. He moves carefully through whatever maze of catheters, tubes or wires might be around the bed.
Petie weighs about 380 pounds, is a dapple gray and is the only pony that makes bedside visits to children in a hospital anywhere in the United States. Petie makes twice monthly visits to Akron Children’s Hospital, and is provided by Victory Gallup Inc. in Bath.
Victory Gallop is a therapeutic horseback-riding program that has helped countless children with disabilities and illnesses develop the special relationship that happens between a child and an animal and get the healing and strengthening that comes from that.
Children’s Hospital claims Petie as the mascot for its unique array of family-centered therapies.
Not only do children get joy out of seeing Petie, but so do the parents, and
Laurie Schueler, the escort for this particular video shoot, said a selfie with Petie is a status symbol among the staff.
Judging from the “oohs” and “ahhs” he generates, Petie seems to know his importance, and the magic he brings with him. He calmly pauses to be pet, photographed and hugged. He follows his handler’s directions, executing precise moves necessary for navigating a hospital, and exemplifying this successful collaboration between hospital and horse farm.
Petie undergoes intensive preparation for each visit. He is scrubbed three times and disinfected the night before, his hooves and tail wrapped in hospital blue wrapping until his arrival in the lobby. Kim Gustely, co-founder of Victory Gallop, said that Petie displays an uncanny sense for suffering, closing his eyes and lowering his head to rest upon the bed of a very sick child, radiating the calm presence and pure acceptance that only an animal can.
Petie’s been visiting kids in the hospital since 1997 and is getting up there in years. However, Kim Gustley said that home at Victory Gallop he can be a troublemaker, running out of his stall and tormenting the dogs. But Petie sheds his ornery ways when he gets to the hospital and becomes a wise and gentle love-giver and day-brightener to the children and families who are there.
To find out more, visit www.victorygallop.org.