- Celebrity Pets
Life for senior citizens can be isolating and lonely. Life for them is changing and not always for the better. Physical ability and mental acuity are waning. In many cases the senior is in a situation where they no longer can have a pet or interact much with the world. For many years cats and dogs have been brought in to visit the elderly. That is great for cat people and dog folk, but what about horse lovers? The last few years has seen a surge in miniature horses being brought in to visit seniors in a variety of venues, including assisted living, adult day care, and nursing homes.
Horses have been working with humans for thousands of years. They have helped us plow our fields, harvest food, herd our livestock, haul cargo, served in the military, and acted as our transportation. Over the past century their role in these areas has diminished as machines took over the duties. They had largely been relegated to the realm of entertainment. Then pver the past couple of decades or so the use of horses in therapy has arisen. People with disabilities and recovering from injury have benefited greatly from horseback riding. In the past few years horses have also taken to visiting senior citizens. These aren't just any horses -- they are miniature horses.
The tiny equines are visiting old folks all over the country and bringing their gentle friendliness with them. People who had never met horses get to discover them and those who were missing horses get a little face time once again. Most are amazed at the sight of a miniature version of the ones they were more familiar with.
Miniature horses are perfect for the job since they can handle stairs and elevators better than larger horses. They can also be house trained, so they are much less likely to make a mess. The diminutive beasts also fit more easily in small rooms and can move easily between walkers and wheelchairs. While they may not fit in a lap, when they are well-curried they are just as soft to pet as any dog.
Many of these programs are located in more rural areas, especially in the Midwest and West, where these seniors were often raised on farms and ranches. Interacting with horses was often a lifelong activity that is now missing. As the seniors begin to share their horse stories with one another they are able to connect the past with the present.
These events brings the seniors together as a community, The interaction with the horses helps the seniors gain confidence and make connections with others. The visits help reduce the sense of loneliness and dependency, and promote a sense of comfort.
Laurie Kay Olson
Animal News Blogger