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The Best Therapy: Alpacas

The National Western Stock Show is in its second week after COVID-19 canceled the show last year. The Stock Show is your one-stop for anything western. It’s full of local and regional vendors, art, livestock shows, rodeos and surprises.

In Murdoch’s Junior Barn, there was a sign for Peachy Farms. The sign said farm animal rescue, therapy animals, classes, and petting zoos. Turns out, Peachy Farms, which is located in Parker shows llamas and alpacas. It had an unusual beginning. It started in 2018 when owner Katrina Wright’s former employer called and said she needed to come pick up her alpacas stat. “She gave me a call and told me I needed to come get the alpacas right now, or she was going to leave them in the field to die,” Wright said.

Wright sprang into action and tried to find a suitable home for these alpacas but realized that few places were willing to take them. “There are not very many people that work with them. And then we ended up making my aunt and uncle’s horse property, a place for them to land.”

When Wright was involved in a 4-H club she noticed animals could be very therapeutic. “They took our 4-H animals into nursing homes occasionally, mostly during the holidays for the seniors, and I decided that I wanted to do that with the alpacas.”  It did take some time to start, as the alpacas were completely un-handleable when they first arrived. Now friendly, the alpacas go to nursing homes, libraries, and schools. “Within about a year of having the alpacas and the therapy program, we were doing about 40 to 45 nursing homes a year,” Wright said.

Katrina and her alpacas enjoy spending time wherever they are welcome. “We took our brown alpaca, who was at the show this weekend, to a senior center in Parker. We went into the room of an elderly woman, and she was like, oh my goodness, a camel!”  She had bad Alzheimer’s and although confused about the type of animal, alpaca therapy left a lasting memory.  “About three or four weeks later, I get a call from her family, and she said, can we hire you to come out because it’s all we can get her to talk about. It’s finally something that she remembered for more than four hours.”

Wright often meets people that have Alzheimer’s. “I had a senior woman who used to race miniature horses, draft horses and drive them in horse and buggy. But she did not even remember her name. When we went into the room, she was telling the nurses how she had this miniature horse when she was little, and his name, and what she did with him,” she said.  Wright enjoys having the ability to bring back people’s memories through her animal therapy. “They remember us; they remember stories from the past that they don’t normally remember,” Wright said. “It’s incredible.”

Wright has made her animal therapy enjoyable for all ages by training her alpaca, Marshmallow, to lay down. “We were at a library one day; I just pulled his head down to the ground for a little girl to pet him, and he laid down for her. And so, I just kept repeating, and I asked him to lay down, and now he lays down most of the time,” Wright said.  According to Wright it’s great for small children or those in wheelchairs.  “It allows kids to warm up a lot easier to the animals; it makes them less intimidating,”

“Marshmallow is really special to us. He was another one that came to us, the same grouping; Marshmallow was one of our starter animals. And when he came to us, he was very, very sick. More nights than not, the first two weeks we had him, I was out in the barn with him, sleeping with him, doing IV fluids, getting up and helping him eat, getting him water. So Marshmallow and I have a bond that is pretty incredible. I will say that he is like my puppy dog. He is such a good boy,” said Wright.

Wright said, “We noticed that [in schools] a lot of the kids read better when they can read to llamas and alpacas.” She also notes that alpacas’ thick fleece improves their therapy sessions. “They are sensory animals, because of how deep someone can put their hands into their fleece.”  

Wright dedicates her time and effort to providing animal therapy to anyone that needs it. However, at one point, she needed her alpacas’ help. “My biggest thing is, I have severe PTSD, and the animals saved me from myself, and if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where we’d be.” She said she wants her animals to be a bright spot in the world. “I’m not saying all people are evil, but a lot of people are not nice. They’re not genuine. With the animals, you get what you see. They’re sweet, they’re understanding, they’ll listen, and that’s something that I feel like everybody should have access to. No matter what.”

Katrina and her alpacas went through competition at the stock show on the 8th and the 9th. “Our kids that showed, I know that my five-to-seven-year old’s, took grand and reserve in the obstacle course.”. Peachy Farms was represented well as they also received prizes for third, fourth, sixth, and seventh throughout the weekend. 

Colorado’s most infamous western tradition can inspire people and create memories that will last for years. The National Western Stock Show goes through January 23rd. It is somewhere you can learn new things and meet new people. You never know what someone’s story or background might be. 


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