Horses have long been known to have a therapeutic effect on people. Their calming presence and gentle nature make them ideal for comforting those in need. But one particular horse has taken this role to a whole new level. Dr. Peyo, a therapy horse in French, has spent the last several years comforting over 1000 ᴄᴀɴᴄᴇʀ patients in their final hours.
Peyo was initially prepared to compete in equestrian competitions, but as time passed, his handler Hassen Bouchakour started to see that his horse had a different purpose. Peyo would single out specific individuals in a gathering after performances and stick beside them.
Doctor Peyo Chose To Be A Therapy Horse
Later, Bouchakour understood why he kept picking people who were ɪʟʟ—either physically or mentally. The trainer embraced Peyo’s unique skill to assist people in need, giving up his job as a showman in the process. Currently, Bouchakour is working with the therapeutic group Les Sabots du Coeur (the clogs of the heart), which is researching Peyo’s amazing skills.
They are particularly curious about how a meeting with Peyo may drastically lessen patients’ ᴘᴀɪɴ to the point where they no longer need heavy ᴍᴇᴅɪᴄᴀᴛɪᴏɴs.
The impact that Peyo has had on these patients has been remarkable. Initially hesitant to interact with a horse, many patients quickly warmed up to Dr. Peyo’s gentle presence. Some patients who had been withdrawn or unresponsive became more alert and engaged after spending time with him. And for many patients, Dr. Peyo provided a sense of peace and comfort in their final hours.
Bouchakour Told Inspire More:
“I am, to some extent, this horse’s collateral damage; I didn’t ask for this. It took me a while to accept it. It ended my successful career as a sportsman and as a showman.”
Bouchakour and Peyo started volunteering at Calais Hospital in 2016 and now visit patients in the palliative care section practically daily. By standing by their door and lifting one leg, the former show horse signals to his handler, which patients want attention. Due to his refined abilities, the horse is now known as “Doctor Peyo.”
“It was very complicated to no longer be the master and to be forced to admit that when Peyo detects someone is sick, I am no longer in control. When he decides, I cannot hold him back. It’s a need; it’s visceral. It is in him, and he needs to cling to the specific person he has chosen.”
Everyone at the hospital loves Peyo, including the staff and patients, but he is accommodating when a patient is reaching the end of ᴛʜᴇɪʀ ʟɪꜰᴇ. They enjoy their last moments with Peyo and have a more peaceful ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ because of him.
Since hospitals are sterile places, Bouchakour must spend around two hours preparing Peyo for each visit. He cleans him carefully using disinfectant wipes and has even taught Peyo to signal when he has to use the restroom.
“With Peyo, we try to recreate life at the end of ʟɪꜰᴇ to ꜰɪɢʜᴛ and create energy to accompany families and caregivers. I accompany him, but I let him do what he wants. He’s the one who decides.”
Peyo has helped more than a thousand individuals during their last hours since he started working as a therapy horse.
Moreover, he is a true friend of his handler, as Bouchakour explains, “Peyo is my other half; he is my life partner. He is everything to me.
The use of animals in therapy is becoming increasingly popular, and for a good reason. Animals can uniquely connect with humans on a deep level and provide comfort and companionship in ways that humans sometimes can’t. Dr. Peyo is a shining example of the power of animal-assisted therapy, and his work has touched the lives of countless people in their final hours.