February 7th 2019

Alzheimer's Support is teaming up with Wiltshire Equine Assisted Learning to provide animal and nature-based activities for people with dementia in Wiltshire.

Holt-based Wiltshire Equine Assisted Learning has won £50,000 from the National Lottery for group sessions allowing people with dementia to engage with others through a range of outdoor and indoor activities, as well as the organisation’s animals which include horses, alpacas, dogs and guinea pigs.

The 'Muddy Boot' sessions will start in April. The group will be free of charge and cater for people of all ages and abilities with carefully planned and supported activities such as grooming, petting, planting, gardening and crafts.

Heather Watson, Managing Director of Wiltshire Equine Assisted Learning, said: “We are very excited to launch this project in the Spring. There is certainly a need out there for a service that allows people with dementia to connect with others and with the natural environment; we’re incredibly lucky to be able to involve the amazing animals here as well.

“The therapeutic benefits of interacting with animals are well documented now and they can have a really positive impact on the mental and physical health of people with dementia. The aim of the sessions is to boost mood, provide sensory experiences and allow people to make connections with each other, helping to prevent social isolation which can be a real issue for people with dementia and their carers.” 

Sarah, Heather and pony GeorgeAlzheimer’s Support will help identify local participants and provide expertise in dementia support.  

Sarah Marriott, Head of Community Services said: “We are very pleased to be working with Heather and the team on this exciting new project.  Being out and about in nature and interacting with animals are incredibly beneficial to many people living with dementia and this is a fantastic opportunity to do both. 

"Many of the people we support here in Wiltshire have a rural background and this is chance for them to participate in farm-based activities which they may be familiar with. We know from our Wildlife Clubs in the north of the county how much people enjoy being out of doors and taking part in nature-related craft activities. It is also an incredibly rewarding to take part as a volunteer. ”

Wiltshire Equine Assisted Learning is looking to recruit volunteers to help run the sessions every Friday and in particular is looking for anyone with experience with animals, gardening or craft activities. There will be an Open Day on Saturday 23rd February at Stagwood Stables in Holt for anyone interested in volunteering for the project.

Download the volunteer day flyer