While a few seniors hung back, not too keen to get up-close-and-personal with Manny, several others ranging in age from early 60s to early 90s shared hugs, kisses, and even short walks during the horse’s recent visit to Brookswood Seniors Centre.
Linda-Ann Bowling, owner of Unbridling Your Brilliance in Aldergrove, brought the 10-year-old quarter horse to the 32nd Avenue activity centre for some hands-on loving with members of the local seniors community.
Quoting Winston Churchill, Bowling said “There’s something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a woman or a man.”
What is it? It’s a horse’s inability to love unconditionally, without any of the baggage that humans bring to the table, she told the crowd of about 25 who broke bread together during a Food and Friends luncheon and stuck around to meet Bowling and Manny.
One out of four seniors live alone, Bowling said, explaining the reason behind why she created the Hug a Horse program for seniors three years back.
“As more and more seniors, especially women, live alone in special care facilities such as assisted living and nursing homes, there is a need for group activities and programs that are both fun as well as physically and emotionally satisfying for our elderly loves ones,” she said.
“Our vision is to provide a meaningful social activity for seniors with the opportunity to connect with others, enjoy nature in a rural atmosphere, and interact with horses in a safe environment,” Bowling added, having time-and-time again seen the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits spending time with horses has had on seniors.
Sometimes, the pluses are as simple as getting seniors outside for a little bit of exercise such as reaching up to the neck of a horse in a hug that encourages a senior to stretch. For others, it’s further opportunity for socialization and an chance to trigger fond memories from their past.
Re-introducing seniors to horses is about giving the gift of joy and companionship, Bowling said of her Hug a Horse program.
By attending seniors centres and care homes like the one in Brookswood, she’s happy to share a little equine therapy. She’s one of about 8,000 healing practitioners in the world working with horses and human, not just seniors, but youth, people with disabilities, and anyone in need.
“Horses are highly intuitive creatures. Horses are incredible at helping really understand what it really means to be who we are,” she said.
Manny is just one of the horses in Bowling’s care – most of them rescues – and because of his calm disposition, he’s one that’s able to go out on visits.
“As usual, he steals the show,” Bowling added with a chuckle, noting he’s been with her for four years now and once again was a hit Tuesday, when a group from Langley Seniors Village came for a visit.