Protect… Restore… Empower
Each year more and more studies around the world are showing the effectiveness of Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) programs. As a result, more and more services, families and schools are looking for equine assisted programs for the children in their care. Sadly, the cost of those programs is out of the reach of many of the children that would benefit the most. We thought we’d like to do something about that.
Throughout 2017 and 2018 we ran some trials to find out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to using horses to heal at-risk children. We trialed private sessions, small group sessions (maximum of 4 children) and large group sessions (maximum of 8 children). We trialed programs where the program facilitators were qualified mental health practitioners as well as qualified EAT/EAL practitioners and we trialed programs where the facilitators had an EAT/EAL qualification only.
What we found was that every type of program resulted in significant shifts in how the children felt about themselves and their place in the world.
What we also found was:
- neither the children nor their care-givers wanted the program to end, or as one youth worker said, “the worst thing about this program is that it ends”. Sending a child on a 6 week program had benefits but how long could those benefits be sustained once the children were no longer in the program? Had we given them sufficient tools for them to find a pathway to a positive future? Or had we just given them an amazing and hugely beneficial experience that then came to an end all too quickly?
- we needed a more affordable model if we were going to be able to help as many children as possible (throughout our trials, all the facilitators we used had their own EAT/EAL businesses and charged us their usual rates – which are extremely high because so are their costs; horses are expensive critters to keep)
So, we started to do some more research on different models in different countries and found an amazing organisation in the USA that was doing tremendous work and used a model that we could see would work really well for us too. Their name is Reining Grace Ranch and you can learn more about them here: https://azrgr.org/who-we-are/
The Plan for 2019
Big, hairy, audacious goals take time and money and, in this case, a 20+ acre property too. We plan on creating a Reining Grace Ranch style sanctuary right here on the Sunshine Coast – a sanctuary for child and youth healing and development. Children will be supported with equine-assisted learning programs and will be empowered to remain engaged with the program, the horses and the new friends they’ve met by becoming involved in our own horse and pony rescue program. They can stay involved for as long as they want – and even be trained to become mentors for younger children.
Our sanctuary will be called Koorana Place. Koorana is an indigenous word meaning “bringing forth our youth”. There will be three main stages:
Activities for this stage include:
- create a team of volunteers who are passionate about helping to turn this dream into reality. We already have 12 wonderful volunteers on board but need many more. Click here to find out more about current volunteer opportunities.
- find a location where we can keep the initial herd and from where we can run the program until we have a property of our own. We are currently working with the Sunshine Coast Council and Eumundi & District Pony Club to put all the required agreements in place which will allow us to share the Pony Club grounds as our interim home – we hope to be in by the end of March!
- spread the word far and wide that we are looking for an exceptionally generous donor/benefactor to donate a property to the charity – either one that is suitable for our needs, or one that isn’t suitable but can be sold to raise funds to buy the perfect place.
- start to rescue the first horses and ponies. Our first rescue, Kazu, has joined us and is progressing well. Kazu needs a sponsor – click here if you can help.
- develop our program plans.
Stage 2: Second Quarter of 2019
- open applications for children to join the program
Stage 3: As soon as the charity has its own property
- develop the sanctuary, implement more programs, save more horses, support more children…