A racehorse who visited Cranford Hospice's Hastings centre was able to provide special comfort to an inpatient on one of her last outings.
Australian-born Lee-anne Hulson, a horse lover from childhood, died in early June, but not before she once again had a chance to get up close to an animal she adored.
"Cranford Hospice holds such a special place in the hearts of people here in Hawke's Bay, and it's a privilege to be able to care for people on their end-of-life journey," CEO Janice Byford-Jones said.
"This has been a particularly challenging time for all of us, so it's lovely when we can have moments like this that really brighten our day."
Hastings racehorse trainer Lee Somervell said he would like to help Cranford Hospice in whatever way he could.
Somervell prepares a horse with a racing name of One Prize One Goal. He is by Ekraar out of a mare called Sheeza Kinda Magic and gets his name from the lyrics of famous songs produced by the band Queen, with his stable name being Freddy (as in Freddy Mercury).
He is owned by Somervell's partner, Shirin Wood, and her Australian-based son, Calvin, and was bred by them in partnership with Shirin's late husband, Kevin.
Although he is a racing thoroughbred, and is due to compete when New Zealand gallops racing resumes next month, Freddy is so placid and docile that Somervell thought he would be the ideal animal to take to Cranford Hospice to get up close and personal with some of the patients and staff.
Somervell used to direct an equine tourist display at Cambridge Lodge and also spent time training and educating horses for The Lord Of The Rings series. He first took Freddy into the house that he and Wood have in Westshore a couple of times to get him used to confined spaces and also had a quiet trial run in the gardens at Cranford Hospice.
The following day he taped up Freddy's front feet so that he wouldn't slip on the concrete and took him down to Cranford to meet patients and staff.
The welcoming party would have been too overwhelming for most racehorses but Freddy took it in his stride, marching into the garden area without a care in the world.
Inpatient Lee-anne Hulson, a distant relation of the legendary Australian racehorse trainer Bart Cummings, knew Freddy was coming and was waiting in the garden area when he turned up.
"It is unbelievable," she said. "I was born in Adelaide and have had horses for a lot of my life, mainly dressage and western horses. I love them, there is just something about them that is so great and this one is so perfect."
Fellow inpatient Kon Bron was brought to tears as Freddy leant down and nudged his head close for a pat.
Bron was a former apprentice jockey who was attached to the stables of legendary New Zealand trainers Theo Howe and Mick Preston.
"I only had half a dozen race-rides but I've always loved horses and this is absolutely marvellous," he said as he admired Freddy up close.
Another patient turned up for a close-up photograph and very soon a large number of staff members also appeared to get close to a horse that stands more than 16 hands high and weighs 568kg.
Janice Byford-Jones said the comments she has received from everyone who was there on the day and the families involved has been amazing.
"Every day our team are working round-the-clock to deliver care to more than 150 patients and their whānau in their homes. A big thank you to Lee and Freddy for making time to come to visit us here at Hospice."
Lee Somervell said he and partner Shirin wanted to give something back to the Hospice after both having experienced first-hand the care and patience Hospice staff give in palliative care.
"I lost my wife, Nell, to cancer in 2016 and she was in a hospice in Cambridge and Shirin's late husband, Kevin, was in the Cranford Hospice before he also died of cancer in 2016," Somervell said.
"I see this as a chance to repay them for all the great work that they do."
Somervell said he got the idea from watching a video clip of a 14-year-old warmblood stallion in the United States who visits hospitals and residential homes twice a month helping to comfort and bring a smile to the faces of the sick.
Peyo is the horse's name and, although like Freddy, he lives the life of a normal horse out in the paddock and wide-open spaces, he has an incredible aptitude for humans, especially those who are sick.
The video said Peyo boosts the morale and brings smiles to the faces of those who need it most.
Somervell said Freddy reminds him so much of Peyo, both in his physical appearance and attitude.
"He (Freddy) is such a kind horse and has always had a great empathy with people.
"When his racing days are over I'd like to think we could take him around to different places just to meet people and so they can get up close and interact with a horse.
"He loves the attention and I'm sure I could take him just about anywhere and he would be okay. I'm certainly prepared to take him to other places."