Miniature horse Star bringing big smiles to the faces of end of life patients in Foyle Hospice.

Leo Kealey from Limavady went to the Foyle Hospice for respite care and ended up befriending Star the horse.

The American Miniature is one of a number of horses and ponies visiting terminally ill patients in the Foyle hospice and in nursing homes across the North West for animal therapy.

Leo has a cancer diagnosis but told UTV meeting Star was “soothing,” and ‘relaxing.”

“It’s a lovely experience, she is a beautiful animal, so gentle. She helps you to accept things."

The initiative is run on a voluntary basis by Happy Hooves who began bringing Star and other ponies into care facilities last May.

It’s run my cognitive therapist Karen Baldwin who believes horses have a powerful, therapeutic nature .

“Animals are fantastic for real life mindfulness," Karen said, "It has a calming effect, helping people to be in the moment.

"Reactions have superseded what we even though, it’s been amazing and it’s not just the patients, it’s the staff too. They bring lots of light to their faces.”

Dogs and other pets are regularly brought into the Foyle Hospice to visit their owners receiving care.

However, Chief Executive Officer Donall Henderson says allowing therapy horses in has taken things to another level.

“The benefits have been amazing. It fits in with the purpose of hospice and palliative care, we try to make moments matter and make those days very,very special for the patient and their families.”

Leo and Star formed an instant bond. He told UTV that meeting the little horse was a special moment .

“I’m well content that I’ve seen her. It’s been an unforgettable day.”

Bringing joy and happiness to where it is most needed, Star is a horse living up to her name.

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