If I get a pony for Christmas
Oh, how happy I’ll beI’d love to find a pony for ChristmasUnder my Christmas treeEvery night I dream about herShe’s the only one that I adoreIf I get a pony for ChristmasI won’t ask for anything more
~ Michael Lloyd / Carol Sue Rosenstein
By Sheryl Wilde
Heart & Hooves Therapy –
Giving A Year-Round Gift to Our Residents –
Thanks to YOU!
Using a team of miniature horses, goats, and a miniature pig, Heart & Hooves Therapy provides animal assisted therapy and activities aimed at enhancing the lives of special needs individuals.
“We travel to hospitals, senior centers, assisted living facilities, special needs schools, and more,” says Melissa Sargent, President and Founder of Heart & Hooves Therapy. “We work with occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and social workers to create goal-oriented therapy plans. We also do animal assisted activities, which are more interactive. That’s what we do at Mountain Shadows.”
“We started working with Mountain Shadows in about 2018,” continues Melissa. “When we first started, we would work with about 20 residents each time, now we often have up to 60 residents when we visit.
“During the visits, the residents interact with the horses, petting them, brushing them, putting bows and flowers in their manes. The residents that are mobile, even with a wheelchair, we show them how to lead the horses. They hold the lead rope and get to be in charge of the animal.”
“Across the board – for the residents, staff, family members – anybody that comes into contact with us, first and foremost, it makes them happy,” says Melissa. “It makes them smile.
“Working with the animals also reduces cortisol levels in the brain. It reduces stress, anxiety and heart rate. There’s also a physical side to it. Many residents have physical issues. Holding a brush can be difficult. So, when we help the residents brush the horse, or put a bow in the mane, it works on developing their fine motor skills.
“We also work on communication skills. Many of the residents are nonverbal, or they don’t communicate in full sentences. They might use one word, or just sounds. We encourage them to communicate in whatever way they can. We also teach nonverbal cues.
“We work according to each residents’ abilities. They get to be in control. Often the special needs community doesn’t get to do that. They are not in control of a lot of things. For the hour or so that we are there, the residents get to be in control.
“When we come in, and the residents are in full interaction with the animals, they are just besides themselves with happiness.”
“I remember one time we went to Mountain Shadows Outreach Services,” adds Melissa. “One lady in a wheelchair, she was nonverbal, very severely disabled. But when we came with the horse, her eyes got big, her mouth opened wide, and she was like screaming, “AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” We gently moved her hand, helping her pet the horse and she smiled so BIG! Moments like that are just super special.”
“When I was about 12 years old, I was struggling,” confides Melissa. “I was interested in horses and my mom and sister found a place I could volunteer. I started by cleaning horse stalls in exchange for riding lessons. I loved it and was at the barn all the time.
“What I saw there was no judgement from the horses. I could show up mad, sad, frustrated, whatever, and there was no judgement. The horses were like, “Here I am! Just love me, brush me!” That was healing to me and got me through a very rough phase in my life. Since then, I’ve always wanted to give back.”
Adds Melissa, “I love our program with Mountain Shadows. For me, it’s so joyful. I get so happy when I see somebody interacting and engaging in an activity with the horses. Many of them have never been with a horse before. Sometimes, a resident will be fearful of horses, and I’m able to help them not be scared.”
“We’ve had several residents that were afraid of horses,” says Vickie Perdaris, Mountain Shadows Activities Director. “One resident, Patsy, was very afraid of them. But, after she visited with the miniature horses, we brought her to another horse therapy program, where they use regular size horses. She went up to a horse that was in the arena and fed him through the fence. This was a big, regular size horse! It was amazing.
“Another resident grew up on a ranch with her father. Her dad had a horse ranch. She was deathly afraid of horses, because she had seen people fall off of them. She didn’t want to get near a horse. But when Heart & Hooves came with the miniature horse, she did great. She was shaking in the beginning, but we encouraged her to brush the horse’s mane. In the end, she was loving it! It really helped her overcome some of her fears. I was so happy for that.”
“When I visit Mountain Shadows and see the residents progressing, or they say, “Oh! We’ve been waiting for you! We’re so excited!” that makes me happy,” says Melissa. “It makes me happy to know I can make their day a little happier. During every visit, there a moment when I say, “This is why I’m here.”
When you cannot walk,
Let me help you run.
When you are afraid,
Let me teach you to trust.
When you are weak,
Let me help you build strength.
When you can’t find your voice,
Let us speak without words.
When you want to give up,
Let me show you how far you can go.
The Mountain Shadows Foundation –
Because We CARE
Will you help make our residents’ Christmas wishes come true?
With YOUR SUPPORT, the Mountain Shadows CARE program provides recreational and social experiences to residents and participants, like animal assisted therapy, adding meaning and richness to their lives.
It’s easy for you to help us continue to provide activities like this – activities that improve the quality of our residents’ lives in fulfillment of their dreams. Here are some ways you can help ensure these crucial activities can continue for years to come:
- Make a one-time donation today by clicking on the donate button below.
- Make a monthly or annual contribution.
- Leave a Legacy Gift.
To learn more about the Mountain Shadows Foundation Legacy Society, to include us in your estate plan, or to let us know if you have already designated Mountain Shadows to receive a legacy gift, please contact Mandy Huiras, Director of Development at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website by clicking here:
Learn More About the Mountain Shadows Foundation Legacy Society
Please share this story with your family, friends and co-workers to help grow our Mountain Shadows Family!
Mountain Shadows Foundation
Director of Development
Contact Mandy today to learn more about the Mountain Shadows Foundation and how you can make a difference in the lives of our residents:
Our Contact Information