Although not a conventional therapeutic approach for elderly patients, equine-assisted therapy has been well-received by many nursing home residents who have experienced therapeutic interactions with our Florida Cracker horses. Research supports the emotional, social and physical benefits of traditional “pet therapy,” which is usually facilitated by dogs or cats and, occasionally, a miniature horse which can be brought indoors. There is, of course, an element of this pet therapy model in equine-assisted work with elderly patients, but the Cracker horses offer even more benefits for these senior citizens.
Residents are brought in wheel chairs outdoors in a natural setting where they can pet, brush, play fetch with or roll balls to the Crackers horses. As you see in the video clip below, many of the “old timers” found comfort in stroking the horses and reminiscing about childhood experiences when they first rode a pony or helped their grandfather who used horses as beasts of burden on the family farm.