AUBURNDALE, WI (OnFocus) – Alice Barrette, 93 of Marshfield, has been riding horses as long as she can remember. A long-time resident of the Neillsville area, Barrette has ridden horses to school, into town to watch movies and nearly any other reason you can think of.
Now, at 93 years old, Barrette lives at Stoney River Assisted Living but is not there to just ride off into the sunset. She has been making weekly trips to HART Equine Therapy Inc. in Auburndale to rekindle her love for riding horses.
Barrette arrives early to her sessions at HART and waits patiently and quietly while other students take their rides. She jokes about riding on a taller horse than Sugar, the just over 4-foot tall Haflinger that Barrette normally rides.
Despite her ongoing bout with dementia, Barrette recounts riding her horse Gypsy as a kid growing up just outside of Neillsville.
“I remember we were out in the yard and so was Gypsy, I can remember everything,” Barrette said.
Barrette is able to get up on Sugar with a little assistance and once she is saddled up, muscle memory takes over as she shows the technique and riding skills she has had her whole life.
HART Executive Director and Founder Kim Sievers gives Alice some simple warmup tasks to do with Sugar but gradually starts to ramp it up. Barrette maneuvers Sugar between barrels, around the arena and even grabs objects while riding to work on her balance.
Since she begun the barrel-racing exercise, Barrette has improved her barrel-racing time by over 30 seconds since the beginning of her trips to HART.
Since 2013, HART has been helping people of all ages and conditions overcome anxieties, work on motor and cognitive functions and much more.
Sievers said a student of Barrette’s age would normally only ride for around 15 minutes. Barrette spends 45 minutes or more riding Sugar and enjoying the nostalgia of her younger years.
Barrette’s daughter Mary Captain said Barrette’s kids have already noticed vast improvements in their mother’s attitude and overall health.
“The equine program has been great for my mother,” Captain said. “It has added a new dimension to her life. She really looks forward to getting out of the facility, interacting with others and her kids on a regular basis. Since being in the program we have noted improvement in her energy, balance and stability. We have also noted a decline in her dementia symptoms.”
“Mom loves to reminisce and discuss horses, a favorite topic. The outings have also given her something to talk about with others when back at the facility. Physically she is getting the whole-body exercise horse riding provides, along with the general benefits of being around animals.”
If interested in helping a student get in contact with HART or interested in volunteering your time, you can go to https://hartetc.com/.
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