Horse healing proves a winner

Last updated 15:07 17/06/2011
Horse therapy
HORSEPOWER: Chad Le Frantz, 13, left, and Bex Pedley, 18, groom Nemo watched by horse trainer Joanne Ragg.

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Brightwater horses Nemo, Toroa and Asteria used to intimidate Waimea College student Chad Le Frantz.

Now he can get close enough to the large animals to lift their feet.

The three gentle horses are helping counsel the 13-year-old as part of a pilot programme which is being run by the school.

After three sessions with the horses at a Brightwater farm, Chad feels confident enough to put a halter on the horses, clean their feet and brush the animals.

"At first they were scary because they are so big, but now it's not very scary."

The pilot programme is based on the Eagala model of equine therapy which is popular in the United States.

Waimea College counsellor Helen Bowler approached the school principal to see if she could trial the programme and was given the go-ahead.

Now she hopes other schools in the region will be keen to get involved. Mrs Bowler said there had been some magical moments between the horses and the three teenagers.

Bex Pedley, 17, said she was enjoying the sessions and one day would like to work with animals.

"You gain heaps of skills out of it."

Activities are ground-based and do not involve riding.

Mrs Bowler said the horses were used as metaphors for what was going on in the teenagers' lives – helping them overcome issues and deal with day-to-day life at home and school.

Participants learned about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing or discussing feelings, behaviour and patterns.

They may learn about perserverance through trying to get the horse to do something or conflict resolution after watching the horses get upset with each other.

The programme has been used to deal with the treatment of behavioural and emotional disorders including depression, addiction, abuse, trauma, anxiety and eating disorders.

In the United States it is popular, having been used for therapy on returned servicemen.

Mrs Bowler, who is the also the vice-president of the Nelson Dressage Group, said horses were naturally intimidating to many, so they provided the perfect opportunity for people to overcome fear and develop confidence.

"It's not about horsemanship, but confidence in being with something that's much bigger than us. It's therapy."

During the session, Mrs Bowler and the horses' owner, Joanne Ragg, are in the pen with the horses and the teenagers.

Mrs Ragg – a horse trainer and behavioural specialist– owns Serendipity Equine which is based at Garden Valley Rd in Brightwater. She said the three horses were ideal for the job. "They are good for this work because they have been handled since birth and are very people-orientated."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

1 comment
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Claire Dorotik   #1   04:54 pm Jun 18 2011

Looks like you have a great program, I wish you the best of luck getting it started in surrounding schools!

Claire Dorotik, M.A., author, ON THE BACK OF A HORSE: Harnessing the Healing Power of the Human-Equine Bond

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