A few years ago I was doing graduate level research at Texas State University about how animals impact learning. When coupling horses with education or anything really, working memory and longterm memory are activated. Also many different memory pathways are used simultaneously. This results in what I call super-powered memories.

When Visiting Angels asked if Miniwonders would make therapy visits to memory care units in conjunction with them, Marla and I noticed right away that these little creatures got astounding reactions from memory care patients who normally were not very reactive or social.

I realized from our very first memory-care visit it had to be because of the strong memories that were made long ago when these patients had been around horses in the past. Touching, seeing, smelling, and hearing all the little sounds these funny little horses make activates many avenues of the brain at once. This creates a strong retrieval of latent memories.

The horses tromp into the memory care and rehab units with their Visiting Angels vest and hear some of the patients react immediately with calls like, “Hello gorgeous, get over here and let me see you.” Other clients who are highly unresponsive because they are in the late stages of dementia will continue to stare ahead while I place the horses little face in the patients view. Often after a minute or so the person will slowly seem to focus their attention onto the horse and then sit up taller. If you are right there, you can feel the connection between creature and hum being made. It is a pretty cool thing to be a part of. I’m really thankful Visiting Angels has supported this non-profit organization so we can make these visits.

– Wendi Threlkeld, Miniwonders Founder