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Horses gallop into retirement home residents' hearts (6 photos)

Sierra and Salvador, from Warminster's Dream Valley Ranch Equestrian Centre, bring plenty of smiles to two area retirement homes

The smiles created by Sierra and Salvador proved electric.

The equine pair were part of a special visit to two Midland retirement homes Wednesday during a journey of joy and goodwill from their home in Warminster.

Both Peggy and Alice, two residents at the Villa Retirement Lodge and Care Centre, seemed to relish the chance to get an up-close-and-personal visit with Salvador, a 22-year-old horse from Dream Valley Ranch Equestrian Centre in Warminster.

“Are you here to see the horses too?” Alice asked prior to the horses’ arrival Wednesday afternoon as recreation coordinator Shannon Fountain handed out red cowboy hats and scarves to honour the western theme.

“We’ve been really looking forward to this.”

Fountain added: “I thought it was a great idea when they (Dream Valley) wrote to us. We decided to make a theme day around it.”

The visits to retirement homes across Simcoe County are the brainchild of twin sisters Cassandra and Kaitlyn Reynolds along with fellow horse enthusiast Kristin Vanhemert, who all felt it was a great way to give something back during the current pandemic.

“I want to teach my kids to give back to a generation that has given us so much,” said Vanhemert, who held Sierra’s reins as the 19-year-old got some love from local residents as her daughter Kaileigh stood nearby with their dog Sophie.

“It’s also a lot of fun for everyone involved.”

The two horses would typically be working with those taking lessons at Dream Valley Ranch at this time of the year, but COVID-19 pandemic means they’re not getting that experience.

And that can take a toll on the horses so they also enjoy the retirement-home visits, according to Cassandra Reynolds, whose family owns the farm.

Reynolds sad it’s important to show people that they are not alone.

“We saw a video of someone doing it in the States and thought it would be a great idea,” said Reynolds, who noted the Dream Valley group has also been to homes in Orillia (Trillium Manor and Atrium) while also visiting King Place Retirement Living in Midland and Elmvale’s Sara Vista Long Term Care residence Wednesday.

“We’re really lucky to have 77 acres on the farm, but the people we visit don’t have that kind of space, but some lived on farms and had horses before so they like to see them.”

Reynolds said it’s also a good experience for some of the 22 youngsters who take lessons at Dream Valley.

“It’s good to learn about community outreach and doing things for others,” she said, noting it’s important to show residents that people care how they’re feeling. “For us, this is a simple thing we can do. We hope to line up some more visits for June.”