In 2020, many care facilities adopted strict quarantine rules to protect the vulnerable populations they serve. While preventative quarantine may decrease exposure, experts estimate the health damage induced by loneliness and isolation raises the risk of early death by 26 percent, and equate the damage to smoking 15 cigarettes a day! Staggering information!
Furthermore, adults with disabilities are almost 2.5 times as likely to feel socially isolated than adults who do not have these health obstacles. Can you imagine? Data collected by one of our grantors the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation indicates, “Social isolation has had the number one negative impact on the lives of people living with disabilities relative to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a direct response to COVID-19 and to address the issue of isolation, Ride On St. Louis developed an uplifting virtual equine-assisted pilot program in collaboration with long-standing partner organization Pony Bird, a residential care agency for individuals who are non-ambulatory and have medically complex mental and physical disabilities (e.g. cerebral palsy, quadriplegia, encephalopathy, scoliosis, global neurological disorders, speech/communication impairment, and multiple co-occurring diagnoses). Over the last two years, our pilot program enhanced connectedness for both people who have disabilities and their caregivers, by combating the day’s doldrums, lessening adverse health risks associated with loneliness/isolation, and bringing back social life by providing opportunity for communication, self-discovery, and revitalization of the mind and body.
We are excited to welcome our friends at Pony Bird back to in-person service this June 2022! Our staff and horses covered a variety of topics virtually, like hooves, grooming, washing, gaits, and diet, and are looking forward to continuing these components together at the barn. Horses are beings with feelings, thoughts, emotions, memories and empathetic abilities and are highly social animals within their herd dynamics and interaction with humans. These social interactions open areas for communication, self-discovery and exercise skills designed around essential components relating to the equine environment.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data
 The Consequences of Social Isolation and Loneliness - https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2020/how-covid-19-pandemic-could-increase-social-isolation-and-how-providers-and-policymakers