Horses help to heal

More than 100 people attended a Horses for Hope demonstration, facilitated by Berry Street Gippsland, in Tonimbuk last month and Berry Street Tune-In program worker Janine Brophy-Dixon said the response had been overwhelmingly positive.

The ‘equine-assisted narrative therapy’ program was already used by Shepparton Uniting Care Cutting Edge as a means of “transforming the lives of traumatised people and horses,” when other more conventional therapeutic models had failed, Janine said.

In March, with Berry Street deputy director Gippsland services Jane Barr, Janine attended a Horses for Hope demonstration in Shepparton which served to sow the seeds for a Gippsland event.

Janine said the therapy, which drew on horsemanship techniques, allowed people to “reposition themselves against problems that have come to dominate their lives”.

“It is this combination, coupled with participants desire to reclaim their lives, that allows people who arrive at the program in despair to walk away with a sense of strength and optimism,” she said.

Janine said Horses for Hope was a creative program aimed at fostering connections between horses and traumatised people through what was known as the “join-up method”, which helped “people reframe negative aspects of their lives”.

The audience in Tonimbuk included those employed in helping professions, the general public and young people interested in “a new method of working with horses in a natural way”.

Janine said program manager Colin Emonson and his team shared the program’s philosophy, principals and techniques “demonstrating a non-threatening and safe way to work with horses and clients”.

“He also gave many examples of how the program had helped several traumatised and struggling youths and adults,” she said.

Janine said when several young volunteers opted to participate in the program the audience was “spellbound” by what took place.

“Not a sound could be heard; a magical silence fell over the crowd as the horse made a connection with the young volunteer,” Janine said, adding it was “extremely emotional to witness this connection”.

A post-event evaluation indicated overwhelming support for a similar Horses for Hope program to be run in the Latrobe Valley and Janine said Berry Street now intended to pursue the possibility.

Berry Street has called for anyone keen to support the concept to attend a forum on Monday, 24 June from 4.30pm to 6pm at Berry Street Gippsland, 37 Elgin Street, Morwell.

Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP Janine on 0429 996 413 or