New School of Education research project will provide horse-assisted services to Alzheimer’s, dementia patients and their families

By Laurel White

A new program led by a School of Education faculty member will provide adaptive horseback riding to people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their caregivers in Dane County. 

Beth Fields, an assistant professor in the School of Education’s Department of Kinesiology, will help lead the program, called Riding in the Moment™. Fields and her team were recently awarded a $250,000 Community Impact Grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program to launch the program this spring at Three Gaits Therapeutic Horsemanship Center in Stoughton. Over the following three years, the initiative aims to provide services to 42 Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and their families in Dane County and will include a concurrent evaluation of the program’s implementation and impact on participants.  


Fields says the program will meet a strong local need, as well as create a pathway to expand equine-assisted services across Wisconsin. 

“More than 120,000 Wisconsin residents are living with Alzheimer’s disease alone, and only one equine-assisted services center in Wisconsin has successfully launched Riding in the Moment™,” she says. “Bringing this program to Dane County will provide more residents an opportunity to benefit from this evidence-informed, community-based, standardized adaptive horseback riding program. It will also create data that will help facilitate the scalability of the program across the state and beyond.”

Riding in the Moment™ was developed at Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center in northern Colorado to improve the health and quality of life of people living with dementia and their families. The program, like other adaptive programs involving horses, is done through interactions with horses on the ground and while riding. Previous research into equine-assisted services has shown excellent health and quality of life outcomes for clients with a wide range of psychological, emotional, and physical challenges.

Fields says her team will evaluate the program with health and quality of life measurements for clients and their families at the beginning and end of Riding in the Moment™. Metrics will include balance and fall risk, social relationships, daily activities, satisfaction, burden and depression. Results of the program will be shared via academic journal articles, conference presentations, videos, and infographics. 

Fields, who studied the Riding in the Moment™ program and its influence on quality of life for people living with dementia for her dissertation at Colorado State University, says she is eager to begin work on the project here in Wisconsin.

“This truly is an innovative, evidence-informed program that is growing fast,” Fields said. 

The program will be offered at Three Gaits Therapeutic Horsemanship Center in Stoughton. Jolie Hope, the executive director of Three Gaits, says she is looking forward to expanding services to a new population that can benefit from the unique strengths of interactions with horses. 

“While we have been able to reach more diverse populations since the COVID-19 pandemic, especially Latino participants, we have not yet been able to expand our services to meet the needs of our local older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their families,” Hope said. 

A project advisory board will include individuals who are living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their family caregivers, equine-assisted service specialists, aging and dementia care industry representatives, and academic representatives. In addition to the advisory board, local partners on the project include the Stoughton Area Senior Center, Area Agency on Aging of Dane County, and the Community Academic Aging Research Network.

Fields says the team is preparing to do a soft launch of the program in spring 2024. 

If you or someone you know is living with dementia and may be interested in participating in the Riding in the Moment™ program, please contact the team at or 608-263-7295. 

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