Horses Of All Shapes And Sizes Improve Residents Happiness
Residents in many care homes have enjoyed interactions with therapy animals for some time, either when there are animals that live in the home or when they are brought in to visit. Some residents find it easier to relate to animals and to communicate with them than they do with other people, so the value of this type of therapy is well recognised.
Not only cats and dogs
Although dogs and cats are probably the animals most frequently found in nursing homes and care homes, residents can benefit from contact with many other animals as well. Baby farm animals are popular visitors in some rural areas, and some wildlife sanctuaries are willing to arrange talks and bring some of their animals into the home to visit residents. Caged birds and even fish can also enhance the lives of elderly people in residential care.
In the USA, a new trend appears to be starting, with horses being used as therapy animals in a couple of innovative therapeutic interventions. There seems to be no reason why this could not also be tried in the United Kingdom.
A rescued miniature horse named Sarah has been introduced to residents in the Corning Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare and has proved such a success that her owner has acquired two more and plans to provide pet therapy with them as a full time venture once she has retired. Cathy Fortier currently works full time, but plans to arrange many more visits to residential and nursing homes with her miniature horses when she has more time. Her service is called Tender Grace Miniature Horse Therapy and, particularly for residents who have mobility issues and are unable to get out to visit horses, this type of therapy in the home is invaluable. Residents are able to touch and hug the little horses who are so gentle that they provide calm and comfort to people.
Miniature horses have proved very popular with residents, but size does not have to be a limiting factor. At the other end of the scale, a Clydesdale horse called Renee, often known as Neigh Neigh, has made a real difference to residents in a Senior Living Facility in East Harbor, walking in the hall of the establishment and meeting all the residents. Naturally, there are practical considerations regarding bringing an animal like this inside, and Neigh Neigh had to be followed by someone with a bucket, but the effect she had on residents made it all worthwhile.
All the residents were introduced to the horse and even those who were usually reluctant to take part in activities came out to meet her. The home cares for people living with dementia, and therapy animals, including therapy horses, seem to be able to elicit responses from people who have difficulties with communication and relationships. Because many of the residents in the home are unable to go outside, bringing a horse inside seemed to be the best way forward and was arranged in conjunction with Maggie Provenzano, who normally provides pony rides.