Animals healing humans a new focus at Ag Progress Days Equine Experience
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Animal lovers may instinctively know it, but many people may not realize the therapeutic value of our domesticated four-legged friends. Visitors who come to the Equine Exhibits Building at Penn State's Ag Progress Days, Aug. 16-18, can learn more about how animals help humans heal.
"People connect with animals, sometimes when they cannot connect with people," said Ann Macrina, senior instructor in the College of Agricultural Sciences' Department of Animal Science and coordinator of the Ag Progress Days Equine Experience.
Macrina pointed out that using animals to improve human health is a new research initiative for the National Institutes of Health. "While we've long known the emotional and physical benefits for people, medical field personnel are now embracing use of animals in the treatment and healing process," she said.
Several activities at the event will illustrate how animals help people, Macrina noted. For example, psychologist and behaviorist Dr. Gesa Wellenstein will present a session on how she uses dogs and horses in her practice to treat psychological issues.
Service dogs act as guide dogs for the blind while others serve as health-detection dogs. They can sense cancer, low blood sugar and impending seizures in their owners. Nancy Dreschel, instructor in small animal science at Penn State, will discuss raising these puppies and how they will go on to become service dogs.
Therapeutic riding provides an opportunity for those with disabilities to improve their physical and mental well-being through riding horses. For those who can't or don't wish to ride, interaction with horses provides great psychological benefit, Macrina said. As prey animals, horses often react visibly to people's emotions, providing for instant feedback and reflection in a nonjudgmental way.
Hands On Therapeutic Riding and the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association will be on hand to provide information on physical and psychological therapies for people with physical or emotional challenges. These include cerebral palsy, attention deficit disorder and confidence building, to name a few. In addition, Victory Therapeutic Horsemanship will provide information on how its program helps veterans.
Miniature horses will greet visitors all three days. "Children and adults in wheelchairs really connect with the miniature horses because they aren't daunted by their size," Macrina explained.
Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 16; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 17; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 18. Admission and parking are free.
For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website at http://agsci.psu.edu/apd
. Twitter users can share information about the event using the hashtag #agprogressdays, and Facebook users can find the event at http://www.facebook.com/AgProgressDays
EDITORS: Ann Macrina can be reached at 814-863-4202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org