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Equine Spirit Healing

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Young girls and two police officers squat behind a horse but are seen through the gap between the front and rear legs. At the head of the horse is a young woman holding its reins. In the background are more people, a grassy area and trees.
The Youth Equine Assisted Therapy project is changing lives.
20 Aug 2019

Engaging with horses can have a calming and positive effect on people.

And when you are an Aboriginal girl aged 13-15 years at risk of entering the criminal justice system, the effect can be life changing.

On the NSW South Coast, a group of girls recently completed a course as part of the Youth Equine Assisted Therapy project. 

The project now known as ‘Equine Spirit Healing’ is a collaboration between the Far South Coast Area Command Police, Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services and ‘horse whisperer’ Adrian Feirer. 

Adrian has been working with young people for approximately ten years and owns the property west of Moruya where the program runs. 

Adrian, a former Aboriginal prison officer, now takes on unwanted horses and transforms their lives. He uses the wisdom of horsemanship principles and his gentle communication skills in working with young people to provide early intervention and activities designed to prevent offending behaviour.

At left: Aboriginal girl in dark top and pants strokes the face of a brown horse as both stand in a paddock with bars in the background. At right: Aboriginal girl in white hat holds the  reins of a brown horse with both standing in a sand covered space.

Activities designed around the horses include the development of skills for anger management and goal achievement. 

The activities have raised the girls’ self-esteem, built confidence, increased their patience levels and enhanced their communication skills.

The participants learnt the language of the horses and were able to connect on a mutually beneficial platform where a positive relationship based on trust developed. 

Initial lessons were within a secure round yard under Adrian’s guidance and the horses used were very experienced in this type of environment.

After bonding with the horse, each girl then had the chance to brush (groom) the horse, combe the horses’ mane, and handle the horses legs by picking them up.

After the final session, it was obvious that the girls’ confidence had grown significantly. Behaviours had improved and school attendance had increased with one participant who was not attending school at all, now attending every day. 

Some of the students required additional assistance with referrals made to other services and they are now progressing well.

Local business Pet Stock, sponsored cow girl hats (Leadership Hats) to reward the girls in their leadership skills progression. The group was able to connect with their culture through a ceremony provided by a local elder.  The cultural experience was embraced by all.

Two of the participants will be attending the next round to continue to expand their leadership skills and grow in self-esteem and self-worth.

Everyone who visited the sessions was amazed at what the girls had achieved.

Find out more

The National Indigenous Australians Agency funded the Youth Equine Assisted Therapy project through its Safety and Wellbeing stream.

This pilot project finished recently and featured 5 girls. The next project featuring 7 girls will commence on 28 August.

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