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Michael Parkes with Benny the horse and Bob Allen. Photo by Blue Care.
Michael Parkes with Benny the horse and Bob Allen. Photo: Blue Care

Old friend spurs memories

The reunion of a man and his horse highlighted the importance of animal therapy in aged care, write Hayley Campbell and Albert D’Aprile.

It was a magical moment one Remembrance Day when former 5th Light Horse Regiment Maleny Troop Quartermaster Bob Allen was reunited with a horse called Benny.

Benny and Bob’s special relationship came to light at Blue Care Maleny Erowal Aged Care Facility on Remembrance Day 2012. Service Manager Jane Suller said what residents, staff and guests witnessed brought a tear to the eyes of many people.

“Benny was brought to Erowal for the Remembrance Day service, however he began to play up so much that riders dismounted in an attempt to calm him,” she said.

“When Mr Allen was wheeled forward to lay down the poppies on the memorial, the former rider and his horse were reunited and Benny became serene and quiet.

“Mr Allen suddenly started speaking to Benny about their old times, which was an emotional and moving moment as Mr Allen rarely speaks.” Jane said Bob, then 77, who lived with dementia, had started reminiscing about their adventures, and Benny stayed quietly by his side until the end of the service.

Benny became a regular visitor to Blue Care Erowal Aged Care Facility with the 5th Light Horse Regiment Maleny Troop and always paid Bob a visit in the Memory Support Unit, until Bob’s passing in early January 2014.

Bob’s wife, Faye Allen, commented on the importance of animal therapy, stating that she regularly visited her husband and saw no response or recognition, but when Benny visited everything changed.

Current 5th Light Horse Regiment Maleny Troop Quartermaster Lee Dominick said Bob rode and took care of Benny during his five years as a Quartermaster.

“Mr Allen used to ride Benny on parades and they always had a special relationship,” said Lee.

“Quartermasters often develop a close relationship with the horses as their role requires them to maintain equipment, such as horse saddles, while they also have to schedule vet appointments for the horses.

“After Mr Allen was diagnosed with dementia, Benny changed owners several times until my family decided to purchase him. We began bringing Benny along to Blue Care Erowal for special occasions, such as Christmas or Anzac Day,” she said.

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