Prisma Health senior day center uses miniature pony for hands-on therapy

GREENVILLE, S.C.  – When it comes to pet therapy, Prisma Health SeniorCare is now working with a horse of a different color.

Specifically, Cinnamon – a cinnamon-colored miniature pony specially trained in equine-assisted therapy.

Cinnamon will make her debut visit to Prisma Health SeniorCare on Tuesday, June 18, where she’ll visit with more than 30 participants at the innovative senior day center program. The center is located at 32 Centennial Way, Greenville.

SeniorCare PACE is one of a handful of centers in S.C. to use the national Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. It provides community-based care and services to people who would otherwise need a nursing-home level of care. The Greenville-based center has a more than 96 percent success rate in helping nursing-home-eligible seniors remain in their own homes and communities.

“We frequently bring in therapy dogs and offer special opportunities like attending community outings or special performances we host at the center,” said Merritt King, a recreational therapist with SeniorCare. “But can you imagine how much joy they’re going to have in grooming and interacting with a miniature therapy pony?”

For Seneca-based Wild Hearts Equine Therapeutic Center, Inc., it’s an opportunity to work with the senior population in the local community.

“We are pleased and excited to be collaborating with SeniorCare to provide equine therapy,” said Jessica Fry, who founded Wild Hearts in 2015. “Our smallest ambassador, Cinnamon, is a miniature pony with a big personality and sweet disposition. Cinnamon has been helping people at Wild Hearts for more than three years and is the perfect partner for this group.”

“Animal therapy does more than make us feel good, and therapy with horses is scientifically proven to benefit us both physically and psychologically,” said Fry. Benefits include lowered blood pressure and heart rate; increased levels of beta-endorphins and decreased stress levels; reduced feelings of anger, hostility, tension and anxiety; improved social functioning and increased feelings of empowerment and trust, she said.

Wild Hearts Equine Therapeutic Center, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit company that cultivates powerful connections between people and horses through innovative and customized equine-assisted learning and therapeutic riding programs. Wild Hearts is staffed with internationally certified facilitators, with its facilitators and specially trained volunteers providing therapy for more than 40 individuals on a weekly basis.

Said Fry, “Every single day, we see the incredible tangible benefits of partnering our horses with those who need assistance. People with physical disabilities develop balance and build strength; people with intellectual differences are able to focus and build confidence; and people with emotional difficulties are able to relax and breathe.”

SeniorCare is already in talks with Wild Hearts to have Cinnamon trot on by in the future as well.

“We believe there are a lot of benefits that our patients will gain from this program,” said King. “Recreational therapy at Senior Care PACE focuses on reducing risk of falls and increasing social interaction to mitigate loneliness and depression. By also conducting Equine-Assisted Therapy with our seniors, we hope to see additional benefits to their physical and emotional functioning.”

Prisma Health-Upstate already uses pet therapy, with the largest initiative being its five-dog Canine F.E.T.C.H. Unit (Friends Encouraging Therapeutic Coping and Healing). The specially trained canine therapists primarily provide physical, social and emotional support to patients and families at Prisma Health-Upstate Children’s Hospital.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health is the largest not-for-profit health organization in South Carolina, serving more than 1.2 million patients annually. The company has one purpose: Inspire health. Serve with compassion. Be the difference. Prisma Health is comprised of two affiliates — Greenville Health System as its Upstate affiliate and Palmetto Health as its Midlands affiliate — with more than 30,000 team members. Its objective is to improve the health of all South Carolinians through improved clinical quality, access to care and patient experience, while also addressing the rising cost of health care. Prisma Health is committed to academic and clinical research excellence and focuses on educating the next generation of physicians, nurses, dentists and other medical professionals. For more information, visit


Wild Hearts Equine Therapeutic Center, Inc.

Wild Hearts Equine Therapeutic Center, Inc. is a Seneca-based 501(c)(3) non-profit company that cultivates powerful connections between people and horses through innovative and customized equine-assisted learning and therapeutic riding programs. Wild Hearts staff are certified by two international organizations: the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen (PATH International), which is the organization for accrediting centers and certifying instructors and equine specialists, and by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), the global standard for equine assisted psychotherapy and personal development. For more information, visit


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