Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding

Every Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse world. Today, we recognize The Hacienda at the River for its unique equine therapy for senior living.

The Hacienda at the River resident, Phyllis Naber and “In The Presence of Horses” Program Coordinator Barbara Rector, MA, CEFIP-ED. Photo courtesy of Hacienda at the River

Tuscon’s The Hacienda at the River, part of Watermark Retirement Communities, is trailblazing for senior living and care with its unique “In the Presence of Horses” program: equine therapeutic programming for senior residents with cognitive or physical challenges. The Hacienda at the River includes an on-site day use stable where residents can work with visiting horses.

Barbara Rector is the Program Coordinator and head wrangler at In the Presence of Horses. “Through interaction via touch, grooming and for some, riding horses, we can improve physical and emotional well-being,” she describes. “Learning what horses can teach us about life helps awaken our capacity for self-empowerment.”

While plenty of anecdotal evidence exists to support equine therapeutic programming and its benefits to humans, especially seniors, Rector is also working with researchers at the University of Arizona Human-Animal Interaction Initiative to gather hard science; the team is assessing how equine connection affects patient behavior, emotions and overall health as well as the potential to reduce or reverse agitation, depression and social isolation.

“In The Presence of Horses” Program Coordinator, Barbara Rector, MA, CEFIP-ED, David Barnes, President & CEO, Watermark Retirement Communities, The Hacienda at the River resident Phyllis Naber, David Freshwater, Chairman & Developer, Watermark Retirement Communities; The Stable at The Hacienda at the River. Photos courtesy of the Hacienda at the River

Already, the Hacienda at the River has noticed real change in individual residents, with improved conversational ability thanks to interactions with a mustang named Little Joe. Through In the Presence of Horses, Hacienda community members are welcome to visit the stable several days a week. Stable sessions are also accompanied by walks throughout the community with visits to residents in the courtyard and gardens.

Hacienda residents who own their own horses can take advantage of local boarding barns and have their horses shipped in to the Hacienda day stable, or be transported to the boarding barn by request.

As Watermark President and CEO David Barnes describes, “Senior housing has shifted away from just ‘taking care’ of residents and guests to ‘engaging them,’ and Equine Therapeutic Programming is a unique and effective way to achieve beneficial engagement.”

We couldn’t agree more. Learn more about Hacienda at the River and Watermark communities by visiting the website.

Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.

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