The visiting horse Henning

8 min.

Horses can be used for many different things, and they can bring incredible joy. It is time to meet a horse that has created so much happiness over the last few years, namely the companion horse Henning. His owner Gry tells about the joy of going out with visiting horses, the effect it has and she shares their fantastic stories.

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THE MOTIVATION BEHIND THE PASSION

Gry Frellesvig Bertelsen is a former nurse, and she has always had an extraordinary desire to help other people.

It is your duty to do what you can for other people, without expecting anything in return – so that the world can become a better place.”

– GRY FRELLESVIG BERTELSEN

Gry is especially passionate about helping people with special needs. Her son has autism, and it is how the interest in therapy horses started,

The family got an old therapy horse for their son, and Gry immediately recognized that this horse sensed something different. It felt as if the horse felt that their son had some challenges, and therefore it was very calm and gentle when it was with him. Gry says that her son was able to let go of the leash, and the horse remained standing still next to him. But if it was one of the others who had to handle the horse, and they would let go of the leash, then the horse would have run away. 

In addition, it was also clear to them to see that their son and the horse got a really good and strong bond together and it could help their son. It was therefore Gry’s personal experiences that made her get the idea to start with visiting horses, when she saw how big a difference it could make and how much happiness it could bring.

WHAT DO THEY DO?

When someone asks Gry how many time have they went out for the visiting purposes, she replies: “Uh, I don`t know – many, many times”. They like to go out once a month and keep it reasonably local. They go out to nursing homes, special schools, special kindergartens, day care, special housing facilities and so on. In addition, they also often go to some major events. They do it for free, because Gry believes that everyone should have the opportunity to receive visits.

When they are out on a visit, they also sometimes do something special with their costumes. Around the holidays, they like to dress up both the horses and themselves. People love seeing this and it always brings out lots of smiles. They also walk through the city with their costumes, going on spontaneous visits and creating joy that way.

But in addition to the costumes, their visits also require a lot of preparation. They usually spend quite a lot of time getting ready, as they would like to present well-groomed horses. 

Horse Henning with dogs
The horse in woman`s lap
Young Herring with Gry

A SPECIAL SENSE OF MEMORY

Throughout the visits, Gry has realized that the focus on senses and sensory impressions has a great importance. They have therefore also been to sensory festivals, where the main focus is on the different senses and how to stimulate them. The senses are also what help bring back the memory of, for example, people with dementia.

Gry says that they once visited an elderly gentleman who suffered from dementia. When he had the opportunity to see Henning, touch him and smell him, it brought back many memories, and he remembered that he used to be a jockey. This was something he had forgotten and no one at the nursing home knew. It gave incredible joy to him and to the others in the nursing home.

THE MANY HAPPY VISITS

Once went to a blind lady who did not believe that a horse came to her. But when she heard the steps of the horse and petted it, she was incredibly happy. She had also had a life full of horses, and all these sensory impressions made her remember much more, and she shared her many stories from the equine world.

Once went to a blind lady who did not believe that a horse came to her. But when she heard the steps of the horse and petted it, she was incredibly happy. She had also had a life full of horses, and all these sensory impressions made her remember much more, and she shared her many stories from the equine world.

So, the senses are something they put a lot of focus on, as it is something that can positively affect people. And according to Gry, the miniature horses are a really good match, as they are also very sensuous. Gry says that she is often asked “What can you use such small horses for? You cannot ride them?” But as she explains the miniature horses can do something different and special. She says that the miniature horses are very empathic, and that they can clearly feel who they are in the company of. When it is a person who has some challenges, the miniature horses switch their behavior to more gentle.

Henning is the horse that Gry most often brings to the visits. He started as a visiting horse already when he was just four months old. Henning has a really good temper and Gry says that he actually has a disability. He has a defective bone, which means that he is missing a small piece of a bone. It’s not something he’s affected by, but Gry thinks it might help him have an even better understanding that there are some people who have some challenges.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS?

When the conversation turns to what a person can benefit from a visit by the horses, Gry confidentially answers: “It’s tremendously valuable. Not only for those who are visited, but also for us”.

People light up completely when the little cute horses walk in. And they always get some wonderful experiences out of it. Their senses are stimulated, which often evokes some special feelings and memories. What comes out from a visit stays with the person for a long time.

Of course, it also gives a lot of joy to Gry and the horses, and to be allowed to experience people’s reactions to the little horses is completely indescribable and rewarding.

Henning kissing a man in a wheelchair
Little girls petting the visiting horse
An old man petting Herring during Summer

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WHAT CHARACTERISTICS SHOULD A VISITING HORSE HAVE?

Certainly not all horses can become a visiting horse. If you want your horse to become one, there are certain characteristics that are important to look out for.

First, Gry says the miniature horses are the most fitting breed for this. It is due to people having an easier time mentally handling a small horse, compared to a big one. Therefore, people who are not so fond of horses may still like the little ones as they are not perceived as “dangerous”. 

She says that when they have visited special schools, there is sometimes a student who is afraid of horses. But because the visiting horses are so small, it usually ends up that the students still come to greet them. So, they overcome their fears and create a successful experience and a feeling of victory, which stays for a really long time after the visit itself. The breed is also perfect because its size makes it easy to handle indoor, and also bring with you on an elevator – which Henning loves to do!

Also there are certain personality traits that are important in a visiting horse:

  1. The horse should be curious about things, and should not react negatively, for example to sounds.
  2. It must have a calm temper. Gry also has a breeding stallion, but he would never fit as a visiting horse, due to his temper.
  3. The horse must really like people, and love to be with them.  

Gry also explains that Henning loves people, and he has always loved being cuddled and kissed, and generally just being around people. For instance, when they enter a nursing home, Henning himself goes and lays his head on the lap of the people they visit. He is a big cuddly head and is very loving.

WHAT TO DO TO GET STARTED

If you would like to try out a visit with your own horse, Gry has some tips for you:

Environmental thing

It is very important that the horse does not react negatively to unexpected things. You therefore have to train with all sorts of unusual things. Gry says that they use a lot of loud noises, the presence of children and sudden movements. They even have a starter pistol that they can fire, to train the horses to not move a single muscle. They have become so used to strange and loud noises that it does not matter to them. This is very important, as you never know what may happen. For example at a special school – there may be many unexpected things, so it is necessary for the horse to stay calm.

Seek out to other who know about it

Depending on what country you live in, there are different associations for visiting horses that you can become a part of. You can also search on social media for groups that work with visiting horses. If you are part of a community, you can share your experiences and help each other. You can also look for team training with a focus on environmental training.

Make sure the horse is “potty trained”

You also need to have a reasonably “clean” horse. Gry says that Henning has only once left “a small gift” at a place and this was when he was very young. She says that it is very much about being able to read the signs of her horse correctly. Now, Gry can feel when Henning gets a little restless, and then she knows it is time to go outside. Then they can go back in and get ready for more coziness, joy and support.

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