RDA marks Dementia Action Week with record Tea With a Pony sessions

Dementia Action Week 16-22 May

RDA is raising awareness of the power of horses to help people living with Dementia. During Dementia Action Week (16-22 May), the charity will be aiming to run as many ‘Tea with a Pony’ sessions as possible at its member groups throughout the UK.

Launched in 2021 and made possible thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Tea With a Pony is an RDA activity focusing on multisensory experiences with RDA horses and ponies. The charity launched the new experience in response to the growing number of people living with dementia and similar conditions. It has since seen great success, with 31 RDA groups running sessions within the first year.

Tea With a Pony offers the opportunity to engage with horses and ponies in a safe and secure environment. The sessions typically involve tea and cake followed by watching a riding lesson or having an opportunity to stroke or brush the ponies. Participants often come from their care home, with some individuals also coming with family and friends.

Multisensory experiences like Tea With a Pony have been shown to help reduce anxiety and agitation in those who live with dementia. Lorna Kook, who is a retired occupational therapist with more than 30 years’ experience, has been instrumental in the development the Tea With a Pony initiative.

“Sadly, any dementia diagnosis is a palliative diagnosis, which means that every single day matters, and it means that whatever we can do to add meaning to the day for the person who is living with dementia, we should do,” says Lorna. Sessions engage senses like touch, smell and sound, and can often prompt early memories and physical engagement, such as waving or speech.

Tea With a Pony is beneficial for carers and family members too. “Sessions help people living with dementia to engage with past experiences, opening a window to understanding the real person, rather than just somebody living with dementia.” Explains Lorna. “It gives the carers something else to talk about when they get back to the care home. It’s another way of engaging.”

Lincolnshire-based RDA group, Kesteven Rideability, recently held their first TWP session of the year. “Kesteven Rideability is delighted to welcome back our three care homes after the winter break” said Kesteven Rideability Group Chair, Karen Thompson. “These sessions give everyone such pleasure, the participants, volunteers and horses. A chance to relax and share memories whilst enjoying the tranquility of the Lincolnshire countryside.”

Residents enjoyed brilliant sunshine and were able to sing Happy Birthday to one of the residents. “This has been the best day ever. I always have so much fun when I’m here” said one resident, Gillian. “We are truly grateful and feel honoured to be part of the Tea with a Pony group at Kesteven Rideability.” Newton House Care Home said. “The care and kindness that they provide us is outstanding and the volunteers who work there are incredible.”.

During Dementia Action Week, several RDA groups will be hosting Tea With a Pony sessions across the UK. The RDA National Training Centre also plans on running an open day on Thursday 19th in partnership with Creative Mojo, which offers craft experiences for the elderly and adults with disabilities and mental health concerns and specialises in working with people living with dementia. The open day will also mark the one year anniversary of the launch of Tea With a Pony.

Dementia Action Week is a campaign run by the Alzheimer’s Society to encourage people to ‘act on dementia’.