New assisted living care facility paving the way for on-site equine therapy

Published: Jan. 20, 2017 at 12:39 AM MST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2017 at 3:55 AM MST
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TUCSON, ARIZONA - A new assisted living facility is using horses to heal its residents, offering them a one-of-a-kind experience here in Tucson.

The Hacienda at the River is the first facility of its kind to offer on-site equine therapy for residents and their family members.

"No one's done it anywhere. This isn't done anywhere on the globe," said Barbara Rector, creator of the "In the Presence of Horses" program.

Rector said the therapy can help those who are dealing with things such as Dementia, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and depression.

"A curriculum that merges the known research that we've been doing on the physiology of the horse and human bond. What is it about the horse and the human's relationship that is proven to be so beneficial over the millennia?" Rector said.

The 90-minutes sessions involve everything from simply being in the presence of horses to touching and riding them.

This relationship is designed to help residents with things such as strength, balance, and communication skills.

"It's a shift in communication. It's built on the horse's natural instinctual being and it appears to meet, greet and move humans mind, heart," Rector said.

Vicky Norwood is a nurse practitioner who was one of dozens who toured the new facility.

Though she hasn't seen this program in action, She said she's seen firsthand the impact this type of therapy can have on memory care patients.

"Any exercise that engages them, that encourages them to move, that is tactile, that they can get their hands on. I have seen someone here in Tucson who brings a miniature horse to the facility. And no matter how severe the patient's dementia is, they always seem able and willing to reach out and touch that living, warm, fuzzy thing. So this is good for them. And for their families," Norwood said.

The therapy is open to all residents and families, but anyone in the community is welcome to schedule an appointment for a session.

The Hacienda at the River opens on February 15.

Copyright 2017 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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