Maple Creek, Saskatchewan is in horse country, so when recreation therapists at the South West Integrated Health Facility (SWIHF) were looking at new therapy programs for their long-term care residents earlier this year, equestrian therapy was a natural fit.
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“This is a ranching community, where horses and rodeos are a huge part of peoples’ lives,” said Camille Lesiuk, a recreation therapist at the SWIHF. “It just made sense to try this therapy, given that research has shown animal-assisted therapy benefits older adults with dementia.”
Long-term care residents in Maple Creek got the chance to be around horses again as part of an equestrian therapy pilot program which ran in 2019.
Cali Brown, owner and founder of Conscious Effects in Maple Creek and a certified Equine Gestalt Coach, helped with a six-week equestrian therapy pilot program involving eight SWIHF residents of varying abilities. Every session included time for each resident to get to know the horses – grooming and feeding the animals, roping them, and leading them around a pen.
Mounting the horse with assistance was something offered to all those taking part in the pilot during the last session.
“You could see their eyes light up, and memory come back to life as the horses were introduced,” said Brown. “We loved hearing the stories they shared about their childhoods around horses.”
Cali Brown, owner and founder of Conscious Effects in Maple Creek and a certified Equine Gestalt Coach, helped with the six-week equestrian therapy pilot program involving eight SWIHF residents of varying abilities.
As the weeks passed, new skills were introduced, and improvements were noted in the residents, from increased energy to coordination and balance. During the last session, each resident had the opportunity to decide if they felt confident enough to get back in the saddle. Three were able to mount their horses with assistance, and ride around the pen.
“The entire program bettered the quality of life and balance of our residents,” says Sara Stukings, Recreation Therapist.