Thoroughbred equine assisted therapy. A soldiers view

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Working with horses is what I set out to do its amaizing where life takes us. I can’t tell you how much I love what I do. Changing lives while helping horses.

Therapy like no other

by Mel Baker

We felt so lost and betrayed with the core of our souls ripped by our duty to our Country, and yet amongst that common trauma we joined in unison in the lush grounds of Cedars in Kangaroo Valley NSW. Whether man or woman, Thoroughbred or Shire, our past traumas dissipated the moment our two hearts beat as one.

What a glorious 5 days we spent in the valley with our trainer Scott Brodie (NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust). Our group was small and yet just perfect in balance with two former Army personnel, two Air Force and two Navy; three women and three men. Most have found themselves homeless after being medically discharged from their Service with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it was here that Homes for Heroes through RSL Lifecare could give them a home and opportunities to re-enter civilian life. Along with Defence Care, Homes for Heroes was able to offer us engagement with the second Cedars Equine Program for Veterans to improve communication skills and boost our confidence.

The first thing we learned was that being with a horse is not about riding it; in fact, riding a horse is like riding a motorbike without having a lesson. One does not learn the subtleties of applying pressure and leading the horse towards our slightest inclinations along a horse trail! Instead, training and leading on the ground with two former race horses, that has been traumatised from their own experiences, caused us to recognise our strengths and weaknesses moving beyond our limitations. The steps we learned drew us in to see that we could speak a new language, draw the horse in and engage him into our understanding. The horses listened intently with their eyes and ears to our movement, our emotions and our tones.

Scott Brodie states “Horses exhibit and survive by instincts which for 50 million years have served them well. There is ample opportunity for humans, when placed in a position where they have to communicate with these majestic, and on the surface completely different beings to get in touch with their primitive, but incredibly similar and influential instinctive responses.” Our natural tendencies to survive trauma are still within us. Until this week, our anxious minds and traumatised souls seemed to rule the day. Then we met with a horse. We dropped our shoulders. We steadied and opened our body. We calmed our being. The past withered away, future losses vanished, the present moment encapsulated within confidence and empathy creating mutual respect. Then, in the midst of that arena, an incredible connection happened: a dual heartbeat joined as one.

5 September 2015

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