Last August, Xenophon piloted a new program called Connected Horse at Xenophon. The program is designed to help individuals with living with dementia or Alzheimer’s and their care partners, by reducing stress levels, improving sleep and increasing communication, all of which have been proven to slow progression of this disease. Connected Horse, is a non-profit organization which developed the curriculum that Xenophon is piloting. They have done research projects at UC Davis and Stanford University that documents the improvement in quality of life markers through the interaction with equines. More can be learned about this through the Connected Horse website, http://www.connectedhorse.com.
On Saturday, April 28th, our center was used to host a facilitator training workshop for people in the equine industry who are interested in using the Connected Horse curriculum at other centers throughout the state. Participants came from Fairfax, Petaluma and even as far as Nevada. The workshop was conducted on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday providing intense classroom instruction, where Nancy Schier Anzelmo, a highly regarded gerontologist and Alzheimer’s/dementia care specialist, gave insight into the unique challenges facing individuals struggling with this disease, as well as instructional skills necessary when working with the population. Sunday provided practical application using our Xenophon horses, who joined in as willing teachers and participants. Wanda Sayuk, one of our Xenophon instructors who teaches Therapeutic Riding and is currently a Connected Horse facilitator, joined in the workshop as both participant and mentor. Penny Sinder, one of our volunteers, who currently works in the Connected Horse program at Xenophon, and Renee Dyer, a Xen volunteer, also participated. The success of the workshop and the program in general is summed up in the words of Penny Sinder, “While most participants came to the Connected Horse Facilitator Workshop with an understanding of the remarkable bond between humans and horses, our perspectives were greatly expanded as relates to this bond for people living with dementia and their care partners. Nancy Schier Anzelmo the co-founder and educational director of Connected Horse introduced us to not only the expressions and ramifications of early stage dementia but most importantly to the cutting edge interventions possible through the Connected Horse Project. Relying on the powerful human-horse connection, the program focuses on enabling people living with dementia to be engaged in a vibrant and active life while experiencing enhanced communication with their care partners; this while care partners learn to improve their own quality of life and continue to enjoy having experiences with, not solely for, their loved ones. The techniques Liz Williams, MA and Connected Horse lead facilitator so aptly explained, demonstrated and which we practiced with real time feedback are both specific and nuanced. Significant reference material was provided to reinforce and augment what was provided during the workshop. I am privileged to take part in this innovative and evolving pilot project while being offered the education and support necessary to make a meaningful difference in someone’s life.”