Last week, the residents at Clare Bridge in Oro Valley were treated with a visit from a couple of mini horses, brought by the organization Little Hooves and Big Hearts.
This was the second year Tammy Mockbee and Amy Armour brought the mini horses to Oro Valley, which reside in Oracle.
Little Hooves and Big Hearts is a non-profit organization that was founded by people who wanted to share their love of horses through animal-assisted therapy along with visiting nursing homes, hospices and Alzheimer’s and dementia care locations like Clare Bridge.
On April 10, the horses Dolly and Lillie made their way through the front doors of Clare Bridge of Oro Valley led by Mockbee and Armour to a room filled with about 40 residents and their family. Each of the horses had on brightly sparkled and decorated shoes and a harness around each of the heads and noses of the horses displaying their respective names.
Brenda Murray, who is the life enrichment assistant at the facility, understands the success and why residents and their families alike requested Little Hooves and Big Heart’s return.
“It’s something that gets the residents talking, something that gets them interacting with their Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Murray said. “A lot of them are hard to connect with. These little horses, they just bring out the smiles and the desire to interact with these little guys.”
One by one, the handlers took the miniature horses to each of the residents sitting in chairs and on couches in a large circle. Some of the residents instantly warmed up to the horses and were eager to pet and interact with the horses, while others seems a little more intimidated by the horses. But eventually, all of the residents petted an interacted with the mini horses.
Kent Prescott, who is the executive director of Clare Bridge, said the residents under their care really seems to focus on pets and music. The facility already has an extensive schedule that includes music, along with other activities, and brings in the miniature horses so the residents can really interact with the animals.
“It is so well received that we are going to do it on an annual basis,” Prescott said.
Little Hooves and Big Heart has 11 miniature horses that they either have people come and visit at their facility, or they will take a couple horses out for visits. The organization visits everything from places like Tucson Medical Center’s rehabilitation center to retirement and nursing homes.
Mockbee said she and co-founder Patty Green had a dream seven years ago to do a program where they could work with children and visit seniors using miniature horses.
While some of the visits the group does are free, others are charged, which helps pay for the care and travel of the animals, along with the proper training for both the horses and the handlers. The organization does not look at the horses as tools, but as teammates that enable them to do a job that they would not be able to do without them.
Recently, the SaddleBrooke Rotary club honored Little Hooves and Big Hearts with a $2,000 grant. If you would like to donate to the non-profit organization, you can do so by visiting www.littlehoovesandbighearts.org.