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Horses Come to Visit at Beacon Hill

Horses Come to Visit at Beacon Hill

How best to take advantage of an unexpected burst of summer-like weather in November at Beacon Hill and encourage residents to be outside? Sarah Johnson, Services & Events Manager, had the best idea – invite the “Real Happiness” Mobile Horse Unit to Beacon Hill for three hours, in 70-degree weather, on Monday afternoon, November 9.

The “Real Happiness” mobile horse unit is a service of the Equine Assisted Development (EAD) — an evidence-based horse therapy center located in Grand Rapids, In normal times, (pre-COVID), the organization offers equine assisted psychotherapy and equine-assisted learning, using the EAGALA model, which is considered the gold standard for psychotherapy and personal development using horses.

EAD recognizes the value that horse therapy provides to those who may be in emotional distress and because they are restricted from providing the services they had in the past, EAD expanded its horse therapy by using the mobile horse unit. So instead of their in person, hands-on model at the farm they are bringing horses to the people —  to those who need it most like residents in Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing and Memory Care – among the very residents who live at Beacon Hill. As it turned out, many of our Independent Living residents also took advantage of the opportunity to see and meet the two therapy horses that visited on Monday.

The entire Beacon Hill campus was open to “Sister” a retired show quarter horse and a pony named “Cora.” The two are best friends and do not like to be separated for long. They traveled through the Independent Living courtyard and on to visit the Memory Support patio and windows, then on to the main entrance of Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing.

The residents were delighted with the horses, whether they were outside and able to pet them or viewing from windows inside their residence. It was an unexpected pleasure and thoroughly enjoyed.

It conjured up memories among many of the residents from days gone by. So many of them commented on how horses factored in their past. Some remembered horses being part of their family farms; some noted that they rode horses growing up; one resident commented that as a young boy, he helped his grandfather plow fields with a team of horses. The residents continued to talk about the visit the following day at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Sarah commented that she was really touched by our residents’ joy and awe as they visited with the beautiful horses. “A wave of calm and wonder came over everyone,” Sarah said, “even passers-by in the Eastgate Neighborhood. People walking, running and driving by all had huge smiles on their faces as they paused for a double take. It was truly magical!” Yet another beautiful day in the Beacon Hill at Eastgate neighborhood.

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