Original Published on Jun 15, 2022 at 08:57

By Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

With some seniors being unable to participate in the events during this year’s Seniors’ Week due to them requiring medical attention, Andrea Rose, recreation therapist with Alberta Health Services set up a special event just for them. On June 6, the Therapeutic Recreation collaborated with Lethbridge Therapy Riding Association to bring therapy horses to the Taber Hospital Centre for the seniors to enjoy. 

“It’s something that started actually during COVID and the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association approached us — there had been a number of people that used to go to the Riding Association and because of COVID shutdowns and whatnot, they weren’t able to actually do that any longer,” said Rose. “They started a program called Horses in the Window where they would bring the horses to people who were shut in facilities and unable to get out themselves. That started and became hugely popular and as you can see, we have a number of people who come out to this program. It’s one of our most popular programs. To see these horses and have the opportunity to reminisce about their former lives. Maybe they used to ride horses, maybe they used to rodeo whatever, but it’s an opportunity to kind of reconnect with the past, they have the opportunity to reconnect with each other as a resident, which is really super important right now because we have seen people become more isolated over the last few years. This is an opportunity for them to come together and reconnect with a common interest. That’s why we did it, we wanted to try and reconnect a residence with each other and with a former leisure or interest they may have had, or even a new interest if they’ve never known horses before.” 

When Rose was asked if this therapy horse event was a yearly event, she responded, “it has been for the last couple of years. I think the last year they came out at least twice, if not three times to spend time with us.” 

Eilish Short, program coordinator at Lethbridge Therapy Riding Association, spoke on the origins of bringing the horses to the Taber Hospital Centre for the seniors. 

“So, we started this program when the pandemic started,” said Short. “We wanted to still be able to share our program horses with people and so we had to get creative as to how we were going to do that. We thought ‘let’s bring our horses to facilities where seniors aren’t able to leave and aren’t able to have visitors and kind of spread some joy for them.’ Then it took off and everybody loved it, so now we’re thankful to  be able to continue it now that the pandemic has changed its course a little bit. We’re happy to still offer it, but we started it to share our horses when they weren’t being used for therapy with people who are kind of stuck in the situation they were in.” 

Finally, Rose took a moment to express her gratitude for the opportunity to run the event. 

“We’re just really thrilled that we can partner with the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association,” said Rose. “Our residents here would not have the opportunity to go to Lethbridge to have this experience, so the fact that they would make this trip out here for us is so special and we are just so very thankful for that.”

This item reprinted with permission from Taber Times, Taber, Alberta