Mallory Williams and her horse Cannon visit residents at Madigan Estates nursing home. In the background is Paige Bosse and her horse Snickers. Credit: Courtesy of Helena Cochrane

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HOULTON, Maine — In an effort to bring a little comfort to nursing home residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of young equestrians and their horses have been making semi-regular visits to local nursing homes.

Organized by Helena Cochran of Houlton, the visits feature young riders and their horses coming up to the windows of the nursing homes so residents can view them.

“I had talked to Rachel Williams, who owns the horses in Hodgdon, and between her and I we thought ‘Oh my what a good idea,’” Cochran said. “We took it upon ourselves to do this on a Saturday and it was a huge hit.”

A group of young riders has been visiting residents of Madigan Estates and Community Living Association during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visiting Madigan Estates are, from left, Rachel Williams with her horse Tucker, Landin Little and Bonnie, Shannon Rood and Minnie, Mallory Williams and Cannon and Paige Bosse and Snickers. (Photo courtesy of Helena Cochrane)

Cochran said they normally let the staff and residents know ahead of time so they can be by their windows to catch a glimpse of the animals and their young riders. The first visit took place in May and was such a hit with residents a second visit happened June 18.

“At this time — especially during the pandemic — the residents cannot see their families and it’s extremely hard on them,” Cochran said. “Everyone at Madigan is doing all they can to make the residents smile. I thought about it some and figured everyone loves animals. It’s really been a big hit.”

The riders vary in age, with the youngest being just 8 years old. They are not part of any organized group, Cochran said.

Although they cannot really communicate much with the residents inside, Cochran said words are not needed.

“Once they realize what is at the window, their faces say a million words,” she said. “One thing about working in a long-term facility is seeing a resident smile makes my day. And the smile on the rider’s face was also great. You could tell they really enjoyed what they were doing.”