Walking her pets through Leyland town centre can take Marie Forshaw half the day.
She has been stopping traffic and raising smiles as she steps out with her two dogs – and miniature Shetland pony, Bella.
The daily trots along the streets are all part of one-year-old Bella’s training to be a therapy pony, visiting elderly people in care homes.
Marie, a mental health nurse, learned about the benefits the ponies can bring, particularly for those suffering from dementia, who can feel comforted by stroking and interacting with the animals.
The 40 year old said: “I had taken the dogs into work a few times and one night on the internet, I came across something about miniature horses being used as therapy pets as well.
“I thought I would get one myself and I bought Bella from a dealer in Cheshire.
“She goes out twice a day for a good walk around Leyland with my dogs, Rosie and Marley, and she is getting quite famous!
“People think she is a dog at first but she is only half the size of a Great Dane. She has almost caused a few crashes when people do a double-take.
“It can take hours because people keep stopping me and stroking her.
“The more people she meets the better and it gets her used to traffic.
“It’s going to take her about a year to get her trained up and make sure she is well used to people and not going to nip or kick.”
Bella was a hit with residents when Marie took her to The Lodge care home in Buckshaw Village, where she works.
Marie says: “It was surprising how people’s faces lit up when they saw her.
“I keep her at home and she comes into the house sometimes.
“She stands next to me when I’m cooking because she likes the peelings and potatoes.
“She’s cheaper to feed than the dogs – a bale of hay at £7.50 lasts her a month – but she would just eat and eat if you let her.”
- Marie hopes to take Bella around local care homes when she is fully trained and is looking for a charity or similar organisation she can work with. She can be contacted on 07702 977879.