Friday 1 February 2019

Children visiting Royal Surrey County Hospital’s outpatients’ clinic were pleased to see the return of the much-loved rocking horse last week.

The rocking horse, which is thought to have been donated to the hospital in the 1970s, was taken away last year for a makeover after Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity put out a plea for someone to restore the horse to its former glory.

Ron Baker, originally from Surrey and now living in Southampton, got in touch after seeing the charity’s post on Facebook and volunteered to take the project on free of charge.

It took Ron, 72, three months to restore the horse, which involved him taking it back to the wood, sanding it down and repainting it, while also adding a new mane and tail and repairing the saddle and reins. He said:

It was something I could do to help and a way of giving back to the hospital. My daughter works at Royal Surrey and my wife used to work in the maternity services, so I thought, ‘I’ll have a go’. I really enjoyed doing it – the horse is a particularly beautifully-carved horse.

Ron began making and restoring rocking horses soon after he retired when he decided to build one for his grandchildren as a surprise. While on a family holiday in Yorkshire, he went along to a rocking horse factory to learn the ropes and from there, it took him a year to complete his first horse. Ron said:

My daughter, Michelle, had always recalled how disappointed she was as a little girl that she didn’t get the rocking horse she’d set her heart on one Christmas (we gave her a kitten instead). And so I was determined to remedy that when she started her own family. She was completely shocked and I remember her saying to me, ‘Oh, you do love me!’”
Corinne Spencer, Sister of Children’s Outpatients at Royal Surrey County Hospital, has worked at the hospital for 28 years. She said:
The children and staff are delighted to have the rocking horse back; he looks fantastic and we’re thrilled with his lovely new stirrups and saddle! Children have already been running in to see the horse. The rocking horse really helps reduce the children’s anxiety, especially before blood tests. Some of the children especially enjoy plaiting his mane and tail and many look forward to coming into hospital, just so they can see the horse. We even hear stories from parents about how they enjoyed riding the horse when they were younger!
We’re so pleased the horse can be enjoyed by children for years to come. Thank you so much to Ron and his family for making this possible; it was such a generous thing to do and is something we know patients will love.

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