The Connected HorseA 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Corporation
“As equestrians,” Nancy said, “we know there is a very real healing presence about these magnificent creatures. We wanted to explore whether guided engagement with horses might increase the quality of life for persons diagnosed with dementia as well as their care partners and family members.”
Paula noted, “We know that people want to stay connected and engaged regardless of their diagnoses and that there is an unmet need to offer more engagement programs for people affected by dementia.
“The numbers are there. Over 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia and that is expected to grow by 40% over the next decade. More than 200,000 of them are under the age of 65,” Paula said. They developed a research project to gain understanding of stressors and stress reducers to better support the care-partner relationship.
“You cannot force a 1200-pound animal to do what you want; you have to lead and partner with it,” Nancy continued. “We wondered if equine-guided activities focusing on mindfulness, self-awareness, body movement control, and verbal and nonverbal communication might help individuals and their care partners as they begin the uncharted journey of living with dementia.”
In November 2015, the Connected Horse completed the first phase of its research, and, according to Nancy, results were promising. She said, “We were pleasantly surprised at how quickly the participants developed trust with each other and the horses. The sense of community was palpable.” (Details about preliminary results can be found at www.connectedhorse.com)
They will complete a 1-hour initial phone interview; a 2-hour barn tour and pre-workshop survey; 2, 5-hour workshops with the horses; and a 2-hour post-program phone interview and survey. There is no fee for participants and they do not ride the horses; instead they engage with the horses from the ground, leading them in a series of activities.
“We are working with an amazing group of Stanford University professionals, volunteers, and horses,” Paula stated. Others involved with the study include Jacqueline Hartman, co-founder and lead facilitator of Stanford’s Red Barn Leadership Program; Dolores Gallagher Thompson, PhD, principal investigator; Nusha Askari, PhD, research coordinator; Ann Bilbrey, PhD, project coordinator; Elizabeth Landsverk, M.D., Medical Advisor; and Elke Tekin, project assistant.
They are now raising funds for Phase 2 of their research and urgently encourage those who are able to make a donation or provide a sponsorship through Go Fund Me / Connected Horse.
Nancy stated, “We hope our empirical evidence continues to demonstrate positive outcomes for persons with dementia and their caregivers. We would like Connected Horse programs to become another dementia care option and provide new ways to assist those seniors we have the honor to care for everyday.”