Member Stories: If you give a horse a haircut...

Who would have thought that a horse could change a life? Andy Switzer did. Though he’s been Director of Health and Wellness with Broadmead for three years, it was at his previous job where he first saw the benefit of involving residents in Equine Therapy. So, when the opportunity presented itself for Broadmead to begin working with horses, the organization collaborated with John Hopkins University to develop an individualized Equine Therapy program.

Now, in partnership with locally based  Rose of Sharon Equestrian School, Broadmead runs five-week therapy programs in the spring and fall. Residents who are diagnosed with Dementia or another cognitive impairment are chosen because of their interest in or experience with horses. Residents’ families are involved in the decision-making process in conjunction with a sign-off from Broadmead's Medical Director.

Participating residents get the opportunity to participate in the care of the horses with a focus on groomsmanship: one resident even got to give a horse a haircut! During their time in the program, each resident gets to work with one particular horse for the duration of the five weeks and receives a photo of their horse to take home with them. Those who are wheelchair bound, or those who may have trouble standing for long periods of time, get to work with one of the program’s two mini-horses.

According to Andy, the most exciting thing about the program is seeing evidence that patients are benefiting. In the two years that Broadmead has been running the program, Andy noted the vibrancy of the residents who participate. He shared the story of a mostly non-verbal gentleman who became more verbal when he was with the horses, including sharing details of memories from working with horses earlier in his life. The gentleman’s wife was particularly astonished as they were details she herself hadn’t heard. This experience was not limited to this gentleman alone, Andy remembered another woman who was non-verbal who began to smile more, put sentences together, and remember the horses' names during her time in the program.

If you give a horse a haircut – the residents might benefit!
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