Animals bring so much joy into our lives — not just as pets, but as furry little therapists.
Horses, in particular, have been shown to help people struggling with a variety of mental health issues. Equine-assisted therapy can reduce anxiety and depression, boost self-confidence, and even improve the quality of life for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. That’s what makes one miniature horse’s job so important.
Meet Dare, the tiny therapy horse who’s just as uplifting as he is cute. He’s an ambassador for Equest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with diverse needs through equine therapy.
On November 19, Dare visited The Preston of the Park Cities, an assisted living facility in Dallas, Texas. Sixty-two people belong to the retirement community, a third of whom have dementia.
With increasing distress fueled by confusion and isolation, it’s easy for dementia patients to become even more withdrawn. That’s why Molly Meyer, the facility’s director of lifestyle engagement, has been planning special animal-centric activities to engage residents’ interest. In October, they practiced goat yoga. And this month, they spent time with the adorable horse.
Molly told Dallas Morning News Dare’s presence was a blessing to everyone “because people aren’t just focused on what they’re losing but on this great in-the-moment experience.”
Not only did all the residents smile, but some even remembered their fondest memories! Claude Dollins grew up watching his father work on a ranch, and recalled that the man always wore a cowboy hat. Dare also reminded the 79-year-old of his childhood pet, a miniature horse named Twinkles.
Leonard Taylor, on the other hand, simply enjoyed seeing and petting the pint-sized horse.
Molly says most of the residents will forget they met Dare. But he still made an impact — as evidenced by their happy faces.
“For me, it is so rewarding to see the smiles, to see people who are in the process of losing cognition just relax and be in the moment,” she said. “It”s just incredible.”
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