Mahelona Hospital residents get special visitors

KAPAA — “Oh, look,” said Josie Pablo, the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital recreation director on Tuesday. “They’re so cute.”

Three miniature horses — Red Ryder, Sugar Baby and Teensy — came to visit the residents and staff with the help of Healing Horses, an equine facility whose mission is to enrich the lives of people of all abilities through equine assisted Activities and therapies, improving their physical, cognitive, social and emotional well-being.

The horses, accompanied by a corps of volunteers, attracted the attention of residents, visitors, hospital staff and families of patients receiving care.

“I used to have horses when small,” said Agapito Saulibio, a Mahelona Hospital resident who said his age was “90-something-like-that.” “They were big horses. We had a stable and had horse racing in Hanamaulu Park.”

Pablo said the goal of the horses’ visit was reminiscing therapy.

“The horses bring people back to another time,” said Phelps. “It brings back memories of their childhood, clearly. This helps them with social therapy because they all have something to talk about at the end of the day. There was this lady, Carnation Carvalho, who said she remembers horses being her father’s main transportation when he worked at Grove Farm.”

Carvalho, along with her husband Adam, were visiting Carnation’s sister who is a resident at the hospital.

“They’re such good family,” Pablo said. “They come every week and are so supportive of the programs we offer our patients. Look at them grooming the horses.”

Another Mahelona resident, Eugene Delos Reyes, said the hospital needs the horses’ visit.

“It’s been a long time (since they last visited),” Delos Reyes said. “They should come back. This program couldn’t be any better.”

Steve Kline, the occupational therapist at Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital, said Healing Horses used to visit the facility regularly in the past.

“They’re coming back to visit us at KVMH on Valentine’s Day,” Kline said. “I’m working with them so they can resume regular visits to both KVMH and Mahelona Hospital. The programs they offer work well with not just occupational therapy. Healing Horses should be working collaboratively with all therapists in their programs.”

Volunteer Heather Phelps said the next visit will help residents with their short-term memory, by recalling the incidents of Tuesday’s visit. It also helps the residents physically as they stretch, trying to reach the horses. She said Healing Horses anticipates adding more curriculum to the visits so it becomes even more therapeutic.

“This is for the elderly,” Phelps said. “Our facility in Wailua offers the Kauai Spring Camp for youth, March 20 through 24. We also offer riding lessons for everyone else in between.”

Sarah Brooks was one of the volunteers at the Mahelona Hospital visit.

“I have been working with Sandy Webster, the new Healing Horses director, on learning to become a riding instructor,” she said.

Barbara Barnhill said she saw Webster’s photo in the newspaper, and came out to help.

“I love horses and just wanted to help while I’m here,” Barnhill said.

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