Horse Sense

Silver Spurs lets older adults take the reins

Loraine Bremer has always loved animals. That’s why, a few years ago, when she first heard that her assisted living community, Covenant Living of Northbrook, would be arranging a trip to a horse farm, she quickly signed up. 

Bremer, who recently turned 100, remembers her visits well. “It was just exciting, going to the barn and seeing all these horses,” she says. “We got to brush them, and that was fun.” 

About eight years ago, therapeutic riding instructor Sally Stewart, along with a fellow instructor, came up with the idea of Silver Spurs — a non-mounted program for older adults, including many participants with dementia.

The program — run by Equestrian Connection, a not-for-profit equine- assisted services program based in Lake Forest — was expanding relationships with local senior living communities when the pandemic hit. After a pandemic pause, Silver Spurs is scheduled to restart this summer.

The program works so well in part because horses interact with people as they are — in the moment.

Being with horses also evokes fond memories for many. “This generation really had a strong connection with horses. They may have lived on a farm or had relatives who lived on farms. The milkman drove a horse and wagon. It really brings back memories,” says Linda Ransom, a therapeutic riding instructor at Equestrian Connection. 

It also stimulates their senses. After grooming and visiting with the horses, participants might bring treats to the horses, stroll to the lake, or enjoy a picnic lunch on the porch. The entire facility is wheelchair and walker accessible. 

Bremer says she cannot wait for her next visit — and she plans to bring friends. “The people who eat at my table, they’re getting excited about it,” Bremer says. Now that’s a program with real horsepower.  

Above photo: Loraine Bremer and therapeutic riding instructor Sally Stewart. Photo by Shelly Bremer