Southern Reins is a nonprofit based in Collierville that provides equine-assisted activities and therapies. “Our mission is to serve individuals with physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities and hardships,” says Jill Haag, executive director of Southern Reins Center for Equine Therapy.

Founded in July 2015, the organization served 12 participants in its initial session and now serves more than 220 individuals this year. Started primarily for children under the age of 18, the program expanded to serve young adults. As a result of some recent partnerships, Southern Reins also began serving seniors, up to 78 years of age, in its Silver Stirrups Program. One such partnership is with Trezevant retirement community.

“Margaret Morton, recreational therapist at Trezevant, reached out to us — she was focusing on getting different activities to encourage their residents to be actively engaged, get outdoors,” says Haag. “She realized that some of the Trezevant residents with Alzheimers or dementia referenced back when they had a horse and would ride. That was the catalyst for our Silver Stirrups program. In Spring 2018, their residents were our first participants.”

Morton says, “We do intensive quality of life assessments about our residents to understand who they are as a whole. In speaking with family and friends of our residents, we realized some of the residents had ridden and/or owned horses for most of their lives. The result was a program that combines reminiscing therapy with equine therapy. It plays to accurate positive memories and builds self-confidence for seniors who have been told they are fragile, providing emotional benefits as well as the benefits of being outdoors.”

Haag says that as equine therapy gets more recognition, the practice is gaining a lot of momentum. “More and more, people are realizing the benefits of it and we are actively promoting serving senior citizens through recreational activities at Southern Reins,” she says. “We have partnered with other local agencies and organizations; veterans through Alpha Omega Veterans Services and the Memphis VA Medical Center, as well as to senior citizens at Foxbridge Assisted Living and Memory Care.”

Haag says that Southern Reins gets no federal or state funding and is entirely community funded. “Last December the Assisi Foundation of Memphis awarded us $250,000,” she says. “In essence, that grant is going to benefit every single person who comes to Southern Reins.”

The Assisi grant is being used to underwrite the cost of construction of a covered-crosstie pavilion to provide a safe location to groom and tack horses as well as teach participants about safe horse handling in their horsemanship program.

“The investment by the Assisi Foundation is providing a huge step forward for our organization to be able to expand the current capabilities of our program so that we can forge new community partnerships and meet the needs of our growing number of participants,” says Haag. “It is the community support that makes Southern Reins possible.”

For more information about Southern Reins, visit southernreins.org or call 901-290-1011.