A TROT down memory lane was enjoyed by retired equestrian Brian Mather after a horse rode into his Salford care home.
The former horse owner greeted Barney the pony as if he were one of his own when he was brought to Alderwood Care Home, Simpson Road, Worsley.
Staff at the home noticed the usually reserved and quiet Brian, 74, a retired lorry driver, came to life when he saw the horse trailer box pull up outside.
He first bought a horse with Ruth, his wife of over 40 years and a keen rider herself since childhood, in the early 80s. Named Shamrock, their horse later had a foal, Blaze, both of whom the couple rode until the turn of the millennium.
However, Shamrock still provided rides for the couple’s grandson, Oscar, who first rode when he was just two, finally stopping when the horse passed away in 2016.
The horses were like children to Brian and Ruth, who stabled them on a farm in Radcliffe, and they became well known in the area as the people to talk to if you wanted to own a horse, loaning saddles, bridles, and tack to help others until they were able to buy their own equipment.
Ruth passed away in 2019 and Brian eventually moved to Alderwood Care Home in August 2020, having been unable to interact with horses for several years.
When Jane Woodall, from Moss House Farm, in Worsley, brought Barney to the care home, it brought back many memories for Brian.
He immediately took charge, leading the 31-year-old Barney round the garden and introducing him to the other residents, who eagerly awaited his arrival.
He said: “What a lovely horse. I can tell he’s very bright and loves meeting people. Barney is similar to my horse, Blaze, who was very placid. Unlike his mother, Shamrock, who was high-spirited but very lovable.
“I loved having Barney here and can’t wait to see him again. Thank you so much for bringing him.”
Fellow resident Joan Wright, 87, also benefitted from the seeing Barney, making a rare trip from her room to meet the pony. She said: “I love animals and really wanted to see Barney. He’s beautiful.”
John Gill, 90, was equally excited about the four-legged visitor and jokingly asked if he could ride him. However, John is six foot four inches and Barney is only 12 hands high.
Tina Lowe, activities coordinator at Alderwood Care Home, said: “Seeing Brian interacting with Barney was really emotional. He’s usually a very quiet man so we were all really surprised when he started chatting away, introducing the horse to residents.
“To see him bonding with Barney, doing something he loved, it made everyone so proud of him.
“I started to groom Barney but Brian said I wasn’t doing it right, so he took over with the horse brush. It was wonderful to see how content he was with Barney.
“He was delighted by the visit. He couldn’t stop smiling. He was making noises so that Barney would be comfortable. He gave him some mints, led him round the garden, making sure that the horse and residents were safe, and introduced Barney to everyone.
“Also, Brian spotted visitors at a neighbouring facility, The Maples, and took Barney to meet a young boy who was visiting a patient. It was like Brian sensed that the boy would appreciate meeting the horse.
“At the end of the visit, he asked when Barney was going to come to the home again, and staff at Moss House Farm have invited Brian to come and visit once restrictions are lifted.
“It was a fantastic day and we can’t thank Jane Woodall and everyone at Moss House Farm enough for bringing Barney. He had such an amazing impact on everyone at the home.”