This week, two special visitors trotted through the doors at association member Erie County Medical Center (ECMC). in Buffalo, N.Y., to spread joy to patients young and old. But these weren’t your typical therapists.

Quinton and Lilly spend time with patients. Photo courtesy ECMC.

Quinton and Lilly are United Kingdom Shetland ponies. They visited ECMC’s rehabilitation floor as part of the “Happy Horse Tour” organized by Centers Health Care, a New York-based post-acute care provider. Centers Health Care brought the Happy Horse Tour to ECMC on the heels (hooves?) of its success at skilled nursing facilities. Trained horses make great therapy animals because of their calm, affectionate demeanor, Centers Health Care told WGRZ.

Photo courtesy ECMC.

Animal therapy has been proved to help patients. Contact with animals can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

While the program will take a hiatus over the winter, Centers Health Care hopes to expand the Happy Horse Tour in the spring, according to WGRZ.

Quinton and Lilly visit with patients. Photo courtesy ECMC.