Connected Horse: A Powerful Program for People Affected by Memory Changes

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Photo © Connected Horse

Bay Area therapeutic equine program for those affected by dementia and their care partners announces a national training program to expand reach of evidence–based initiative

(Sacramento, CA): The country’s premiere therapeutic equine-guided program for people with memory changes and their care partners is expanding its reach beyond Northern California and Nevada. The new Connected Horse Facilitator Training Academy is now available to train individuals and barns across the country who want to make the valuable program available to their communities. The Academy brings the therapeutic power of equine connection to people living with memory loss and dementia and their care partners to communities across the country by offering in-depth training to individuals and barns. The organization uses evidence-based methods to guide on-the-ground interactions between horses and participants. It is the first national training program of its kind.  

More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. People affected by memory changes and dementia often struggle with depression, anxiety, and a sense of disconnection. Feelings of loss, apathy, isolation, and a sense of hopelessness are also common in care partners who are spouses, partners, adult children, and friends. Few programs support the primary pair together. Connected Horse Co-Founders Nancy Schier Anzelmo, MSG, and Paula Hertel, MSW, recognized the value of early interventions and importance of supporting the relationship of the person living with memory changes and their primary care partner.

The founders collaborated with researchers at University of California, Davis School of Medicine, Alzheimer’s Disease Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Center for Equine Health in addition to the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Red Barn Leadership Program. The two initial studies assessed the program impacts. Participants reported increased feelings of social support, greater self-awareness, reduced anxiety, reduced depression, and improved sleep. “We have worked with people from communities across Northern California and in Nevada and participants consistently tell us that they feel alive again,” said Schier Anzelmo, “They feel empowered to do things and want to move forward with living.”  

The new Facilitator Training Academy prepares people from across the country to facilitate Connected Horse workshops for people in their communities who are affected by memory loss. The training includes virtual and in-person sessions. “In our recent facilitator training academy, we had people join us who work with older adults in California, Canada, and Mexico. People who serve aging communities are eager for effective, non-pharmaceutical tools that help people improve their lives. Our workshops help by activating people with a more positive life approach and addresses the “so now what” syndrome that many people experience with a diagnosis,” said Hertel.

“This is such an important lesson,” said Leticia Metherell, who attended a Connected Horse workshop series in Nevada with her mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2017. “As my mother’s ability to communicate reduces, as her disease progresses, these lessons help me understand there will always be connection. Verbal interaction is not always necessary for deep, meaningful interactions.” 

The training begins with on-demand, virtual training modules taken in advance of the two-day in-person, onsite instruction. In-person training sessions are scheduled for March 2023 in Minden Nevada, and more will be announced throughout the year. The training includes 16 hours of PATH CEU’s, supportive educational resources, coaching, evaluation tools, and recertification.

In addition to the valuable workshops, Connected Horse offers exercises and tools to engage and empower participants at home. The Virtual Barn and Sensory Engagement Kits create a virtual “day at the barn” for participants with advancing dementia who can no longer attend workshops in person or for those who want additional tools at home to support engagement, mindfulness and purposeful activities.

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