By Nathan and Chelsey Friedt, Lemon Social | Photography submitted
Hospital patients and long-term care residents in Peace River, Grimshaw, Fairview and Hines Creek wouldn’t normally expect to see a mini-stallion trotting the hallways, but that’s become the norm thanks to Crystal Ferguson, 36, and Bob the Therapy Pony, 12.
“I love the reactions we get from the residents. Every person reacts differently to Bob,” said Crystal.
Crystal is a registered veterinary technician who has worked at the Peace River Veterinary Clinic for the past 17 years. She has loved horses and all disciplines of horseback riding since she was five years old.
“My parents put me in riding lessons at Lakewood Equestrian and I was hooked,” said Crystal.
Today, Crystal has her Equestrian Canada certification and has been coaching riding lessons for 10 years. Bob came into her life quite serendipitously, and it kicked off his journey of becoming a therapy pony.
“I had taken a group of my riding students and my daughter Alexis to a local show. As I was pushing my daughter’s stroller around the grounds, I saw a black fuzzy pony. I struck up a conversation with the owner and shared how cute I thought he was,” said Crystal.
The owner informed Crystal they were unsure what to do with Bob because he had been a companion for an older horse who had recently passed away. Crystal responded enthusiastically, “I’ll take him!” And, so began the journey of a small horse making a big impact.
Fast forward five years, Crystal and Bob have steadily been visiting hospitals and long-term care homes throughout the Peace Region—on Crystal’s days off.
“We love volunteering together in this way. My youngest daughter Harper and I will get the trailer hooked up around 8:30 am. Then, we get Bob all cleaned up and ready him in the trailer,” said Crystal.
Once Bob is loaded up, the team drives to the destination of the day. He gets a quick brushing, and his driving diaper is put on to ensure he doesn’t make a mess. Bob also wears a special volunteer lanyard and a therapy vest to ensure he is not mistaken for an ordinary horse.
Together, Crystal and Bob spend their time in the common areas visiting with residents. Bob enjoys getting scratches and love from each resident he meets. He responds to everyone uniquely as he senses their mood.
“For some people, he will stand still for hours to be pet. With others, he is a bit sassy and eats their food. For some, he says a quick ‘hello’ and leaves,” said Crystal.
Following a full day of work, Bob’s next job is to tote his youngest and most loved human—Crystal’s three-year-old daughter Harper—around as she demands to “ride her pony.”
“Bob is so sweet and is 100 percent a babysitter for my daughter,” said Crystal.
When Bob is not providing therapy, he lives with normal-sized horses at the Wild Rose Guest House, located a short drive from Peace River.
Crystal volunteers her services with Bob to hospitals and long-term care homes. Recently she started asking for donations and sponsorships to help cover some of her costs, which include fuel, board for Bob, blankets and trailer repair.
Currently, Bob arrives in style to his visits in a large three-horse trailer. However, a higher-top canopy would be ideal to help with rising fuel costs and to keep Bob warmer. Crystal is also looking for a smaller dog-run or panels to make a stall for Bob in the heated arena, so he can be tucked in warm each night.
If you would like to see Bob at your event, Crystal invites you to reach out to her directly.
“Bob must be booked ahead of time as we have a busy schedule,” said Crystal.