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story.lead_photo.caption From left to right: Ashley Mathews, speech-language pathologist; Billy Holmes, regional director of Procare Therapy Services; Teka; Anna Redford, owner of Teka; Kevin Arrington, physical therapy assistant; and Caitlyn Robison, occupational therapy assistant. Contributed photo

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

This quote by Winston Churchill perfectly describes the scene at Courtyard Rehabilitation & Health Care in El Dorado on the morning of Feb. 15 as residents of the facility eagerly welcomed an equine visitor. With permission from the administration of Courtyard, Anna Redford brought her horse, Teka, who is used for equine assisted activities and therapies at HOPE Landing. Arrangements had previously been made with Jennifer Cassel, physical therapist and equine liaison at HOPE Landing, to transport Teka from HOPE Landing to Courtyard that day to visit with the residents and participate in equine assisted activities and therapies.

Redford and Cassel were both present at Courtyard for this event, with Redford handling Teka and Cassel assisting the staff and patients with participation in the event.

After arriving at Courtyard, Teka was greeted by several members of Courtyard’s staff who held the doors open as Redford led Teka, wearing special boots to prevent slipping, through the lobby and into the outdoor courtyard area. Ashley Mathews, a speech-language pathologist at Courtyard, said that as soon as the residents saw Teka enter the facility, “they were so excited, it was like they were kids again.”

Several residents immediately began entering the courtyard to meet Teka. While some residents preferred to observe, many were eager to offer Teka a treat, brush her or simply pet her. The courtyard was filled with smiles and chatter as many residents began sharing stories of their past experiences with horses. Many of the therapists at Courtyard used Teka’s visit as an opportunity to use equine assisted therapy as a part of the occupational, physical and/or speech therapy provided to residents who receive in-patient rehabilitation at Courtyard.

The therapists noted that the residents were much more enthusiastic about participating in therapy with Teka present and that they were able to tolerate longer periods of activity, such as standing, because they were motivated by interacting with Teka.

Gallery: Teka visits Courtyard Rehabilitation & Health Care

The American Hippotherapy Association defines equine assisted therapies as a “group of therapies provided by licensed healthcare professionals who include horses and/or equine interactions as a treatment tool/strategy;” whereas equine assisted activities is defined as “activities within an equine environment, mounted or unmounted, where the focus is skill attainment, education, recreation, sport, and/or leisure.”

The residents who receive in-patient rehabilitation at Courtyard were able to participate in equine assisted therapy as part of their regular therapy interventions, and those who do not receive in-patient rehabilitation were still able to enjoy equine assisted activities.

Teka is a 22-year-old Appaloosa mare used at HOPE Landing for equine assisted activities and therapies, as well as hippotherapy, which is defined by the American Hippotherapy Association as “how occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes.”

Teka has been at HOPE Landing since September 2016, and Redford said she plans on retiring Teka from her service this fall, after she completes three full years of service; however, she added that she hopes to keep Teka involved in other forms of equine assisted activities and therapies, such as visiting residential care facilities, as long as possible.

The event was filled with many heartwarming moments of interaction between Teka and the residents. One resident described a gentle nudge on the cheek from Teka’s muzzle as “a kiss.” Cassel described a sweet moment she witnessed as an elderly man with arthritic hands caressed Teka’s face and Teka responded by gently leaning to receive his affection.

“The residents loved her,” Mathews said, after Teka’s visit ended. “They all want to know when she will be back. We can’t wait until next time!”

Redford said she plans on bringing Teka back to Courtyard as often as she can, and, judging by the residents’ reactions to Teka’s visit, they would be more than happy to see her again. And judging by the amount of apples, horse treats and affection Teka received, she would be more than willing to oblige.

This article was provided to the News-Times by Anna Redford, owner of Teka.

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