On Friday, the Misty Meadows Equine Learning Center teamed up with Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living (MVCFL) to offer an enjoyable community event that included horse grooming, tours, and tours with miniature therapy horse Tony Smalls.
The outdoor gathering saw people from the MVCFL, as well as various other organizations and community groups. Anyone interested in the event was invited to attend.
Satisfied laughs and neighs could be heard for several hours around the horse’s center property, as people brushed the horses’ sun-warmed coats and stroked their manes.
Tony Smalls, a licensed (miniature) therapy pony, walked around to all the guests who wanted to say hello and was brought into the indoor equestrian area, where he showed off his abstract painting skills.
All the while, people were chatting with each other, telling stories and remembering with old friends.
Annie Parsons, instructor at Misty Meadows, said Tony Smalls is certified by the Miniature Equine Therapy Standards Association and has a wealth of experience bringing joy and comfort to anyone who meets him.
“We started in Windemere about two or three years ago, just visiting. I’ve used it a lot, and I think other people have, too, ”Parsons said. “I kept doing that, and we also had various demonstrations, like archery, painting, and we just started doing a dance routine. We have been in practice for five weeks.
Parsons said a social event like this allows people to step out into the community and reconnect with each other, having been locked up for so long. “Social interaction is difficult for everyone at the moment. A lot of people when they get older they have an even harder time going out and having these really important social experiences that are priceless to everyone, ”Parsons said.
She added that pet therapy is beneficial for everyone, especially those who may not be living at home anymore and want that warmth and connection.
“I’ve never been without animals, and there is a time when I might not be able to have any. So I hope when that time comes, someone brings me a pony to stroke, ”Parsons laughed.
Misty Meadows volunteer Shelley Wilbur said the equine center wants to continue expanding its program offering to people of all ages and abilities, and that an equestrian social event is a great way to break the ice. “At the end of the day, I believe they see where the interest is and how they can expand their offerings based on the feedback,” Wilbur said.
According to Wilbur, spending time with horses is peaceful, and “until someone has done it and experienced the presence of these animals, it is very difficult to explain how it is. ‘is curative and therapeutic. “
As part of the MVCFL Daytime Support Program, clients do enjoyable activities during the day, such as exercising, playing and listening to music, or taking trips to places like Misty Meadows and Felix Neck.
According to MVCFL Executive Director Leslie Clapp, the program provides respite for caregivers, allowing them to work and provide for other family members.
“Most of our clients are 70, 80 and 90 years old. It’s a day that helps them not only to socialize, but also to just be a part of the community, which is so important for overall health, especially mental health, ”Clapp said. “It’s a holistic approach to caregiving – helping these people live the best possible lives.”
The Horse Festival was the first community event hosted by MVCFL since its recent reopening, and as far as she knows, Clapp said, it has been a success. The center plans to hold more public events and is closely monitoring COVID guidelines.
“Personally, I’m a horse lover and Misty Meadows does a great job. They’ve done amazing things with the disability community already, so it’s something I’m excited to continue working with them, ”said Clapp. “It’s a wonderful way for anyone to be a part of the community.”
John Zeisel, founder of the I’m Still Here Foundation, said the goal of these types of events is well-being. The foundation sponsors and supports community engagement programs and events for people with dementia and their loved ones.
“It’s the feeling that you have a purpose. Everyone deserves this feeling, ”said Zeisel. “The feeling of being engaged and active in the world.”
He said that by visiting new places, meeting new people and having pleasant and rewarding experiences, people feel more connected to themselves and to society. “See the horses and be invited to brush and comfort them. All this to give people a reason to be alive, ”he said. “These types of experiences are important for everyone.”
According to Zeisel, everyone, regardless of age and ability, should be able to have these experiences and not see them as “special”.
“The problem we have is that most people count people with dementia and Alzheimer’s out of the equation. They say, “Well, I go out into the community, I have a pet, I go for a walk – they don’t know that people with Alzheimer’s and dementia have these basic human needs too – we do.” do all.
“Well-being is what we all deserve, to be part of society, to have a purpose. The center creates opportunities for people who shouldn’t be seen as special – that’s what should be normal.