Beaming now offering riding activities for people with dementia

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 3:57 PM CDT
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NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) - Beaming Inc., a non-profit that provides equine-assisted therapeutic riding teams up with UW-Madison for a first of its kind of program in Wisconsin. “Riding in the Moment” helps people living with dementia.

The ring at Beaming is busy. More than a dozen people, living with dementia, are visiting, participating in the “Riding in the Moment” program, a partnership between Beaming and UW-Madison.

According to Dr. Beth Fields with the UW-Madison Center for Aging Research and Education, “We have shown, through our research, that the Riding in the Moment program helps improve the quality of life of both people with dementia, as well as their care partners, so any family members or friends that attend the adaptive horseback riding program with them.”

Only the second program of its kind in the U.S., “Riding in the Moment” at Beaming starts with an introduction to the horses.

“With horses, because of their extra sensory perception they basically recognize the difference between a dementia person and a regular person and they relate to that and it’s fantastic,” says Beaming board member, Walt Zerrenner.

Participants bond with the horses, work on grooming the animals, as well as feeding them, from rope kabobs, they build on their own. Dr. Fields adds, “Right away you see when the people with dementia come in, they just light up because it taps into some of those long term memories that they’ve had with horses, so the horse is really a powerful motivator.”

Riding the horse is something participants work their way up to, some practicing on the Equi-cizer before saddling up for a laps in the ring. Horseback riding is good for the mind, body and soul.

“Some more recent research has demonstrated some physical benefits as well, which improves balance as well as postural stability,” says Dr. Fields.

Right now, “Riding in the Moment” is an eight week program -- two hours a week. While Beaming has teamed up with some local nursing homes and long term care facilities, it’s looking for additional participants as well.

And this non-profit program is always looking for volunteers to help to make events like today happen. Walt Zerrenner says, “Anytime we have people here with the horses, we have to have to have at least three volunteers with each person - one to walk in front of the horse and two side walkers.”

People interested in volunteering or learning more about the programs offered at Beaming should click here.

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