Research

An exciting exploration

The interest in the therapeutic effects of Human-Animal Interaction is gaining momentum as programs see positive outcomes with a variety of populations. This program establishes an evidence-based model utilizing Equine Guided Activities for people affected by dementia. The Equine Guided support study is the first of its kind to assist people with early stage dementia and their care partners. People often ask what is so special about the horses. For over 50 million years horses have survived because of their ability to work collaboratively and adapt to change. They are nonjudgmental partners that teach us to stay in the moment and trust the strength of the herd. The trained facilitators help participants to interpret the learning as the day unfolds.

We are grateful to our over 50 participants who helped us learn more about the therapeutic connection between horses and humans.

Summary of Initial Pilot Research

“All participants, facilitators and researchers reported experiencing a more positive mood and affect after interacting with the horses in the equine guided support workshops.”

Abstract

The Equine Guided Support Pilot Study measured the effectiveness of equine-guided workshops on stress reduction and quality of life indicators for people with early stage dementia and their care partners.

There are 35 million people living with dementia worldwide. This number is expected to triple by 2050. Family caregiving remains the most common form of care, although researchers from around the world find that stress significantly typifies this experience. Additionally, persons are diagnosed earlier in the process, so that living with early-stage dementia is becoming more of a global reality. Yet few specific services exist to meet the needs of this population and their family caregivers.

This project is an innovative approach that offers considerable promise for application beyond the San Francisco Bay Area where it was conducted. The program includes an introduction to the equine facility, followed by two 5-hour workshops, focused on therapeutic activities with horses, discussion groups and awareness practices led by trained staff and facilitators. Activities with horses included observing herd behavior, grooming, leading them, and connecting with them over the fence - all were intended to teach non-verbal communication skills to both care partners (CPs) and persons living with dementia (PWD). Reflection on these experiences was the discussion groups’ goal. Pre/post-test design used standardized measures of stress, burden, mood, and social support for both care partners and PWD. The two pilots measured for this data set had a total of 26 participants, 13 dyads. Eighteen participants completed the workshop and all of the standardized assessments. Eight participants completed modified, shortened programs and/or only completed partial assessments.

Quantitative and qualitative findings indicated significantly increased positive perception of social support, greater sense of reciprocity, awareness, upliftedness and appreciation of one another in dyads. Trends for improved mood in both members of the dyad were also noted. Future plans include partnering with other sites and expanding program’s positive outcomes on a larger scale.

Comparative Research in Progress at University of California, Davis School of Medicine, Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and School of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Equine Health. An additional 14 people, 7 dyads have completed the workshops and we expect to offer another workshop in the spring, 2017. The data has not been fully analyzed; however, the initial feedback from participants indicates positive trends in quality of life indicators. Study Timeline is Fall 2016- Spring 2017.

Research Team

University of California, Davis (2016-present)

Sarah Tomaszewski Farias, PhD — Principal Investigator, Professor of Neurology, Davis Medical Center, Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Claudia Sonder, DVM — Director, School of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Equine Health.

Liz Williams, MA — Lead Facilitator, Connected Horse Workshops and curriculum development.

Elke Tekin — Community Outreach Coordinator and Connected Horse Board Member, specializing in case management and education for elders and families.

Paula Hertel, MSW — Program Director and Connected Horse Co-Founder/Board Member, specializing in programs supporting older adults, care partners and professionals.

Nancy Schier Anzelmo, MSG — Education Director, dementia care practitioner and Connected Horse Co-Founder/Board member, specializing in programs that support person-centered care for those living with dementia.

Elizabeth Landsverk, MD — Research Study Medical Advisor and geriatrician specializing in dementia care, adjunct professor at Stanford University and founder of Elder Consult Geriatric Medicine.


Stanford University (2015-2016)

Dolores Gallagher Thompson, PhD — Principal Investigator and Professor of Research, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University.

Nusha Askari, PhD — Project Coordinator and Academic Program Professional, Stanford ADRC, Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University.

Ann Choryan Bilbrey, PhD — Assistant Project Coordinator and Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University.

Jacqueline Hartman — Curriculum Developer & Lead Facilitator, co-founder of the Stanford University Red Barn Leadership Program and curriculum/program developer for equine-guided leadership.

Elizabeth Landsverk, MD — Research Study Medical Advisor and geriatrician specializing in dementia care, adjunct professor at Stanford University and founder of Elder Consult Geriatric Medicine.

Elke Tekin — Community Outreach Coordinator and Connected Horse Board Member, specializing in case management and education for elders and families.

Paula Hertel, MSW — Program Director and Connected Horse Co-Founder/Board Member, specializing in programs supporting older adults, care partners and professionals.

Nancy Schier Anzelmo, MSG — Education Director, dementia care practitioner and Connected Horse Co-Founder/Board member, specializing in programs that support person-centered care for those living with dementia.

Connected Horse Project

Connected Horse Project

Connected Horse Project

Connected Horse Project

Facts on dementia and caregiving

  • Dementia is the social and health care challenge of our generation. How we respond to this challenge will shape the next generation.
  • Over 5.3 million Americans have a diagnosis of dementia and over 200,000 people with the diagnosis are under the age of 65. This number is expected to grow by 40% by 2025.
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
  • It is estimated that 15.7 million family members and friends provide 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care giving each year, valued at $217.7 billion dollars.
  • Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will cost the United States $226 billion dollars this year.
*Data from the Alzheimer's Association, 2015
Top