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December 13, 2019

Equine therapy program helps Veterans

Seeing brumbies in the wild was a highlight of a five-day horseback trek through Kosciuszko National Park for a group of veterans and police officers.

The trek was the culmination of an intensive eight-month equine therapy program at RSL LifeCare, Picton. Eight horses are homed at Queen Victoria Park, on the grounds of the John Goodlet Manor Residential Aged Care Home and veterans and first responders who have suffered trauma attend the course.

The program gives them the objective and purpose of rehabilitating the horses and they are rehabilitating themselves at the same time,” Mr Streeter said.

Their hard work culminated in the trek through the Snowys in October. They were based at Wares Yards campground, half an hour north west of Adaminiby.

RSL LifeCare Picton equine instructor Max Streeter said spending time with horses was beneficial for many people but particularly for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The attendees had worked with horses supplied by Racing NSW. These off-track horses are deemed unsuitable for racing and they arrive untrained and unruly. The participants learned to bond with, train and educate their horses before taking the challenge of riding them. Each must spend two days each week but most chose to train three or four days, with 6-8 hours work each session.

“The program gives them the objective and purpose of rehabilitating the horses and they are rehabilitating themselves at the same time,” Mr Streeter said.

“We thought one participant could struggle to achieve all objectives because of a complex set of issues he faces. But he dug so deep and pushed so hard. On the first day of riding they rode for six hours.

“They were given the chance to stop at three hours, at a historic bushmans hut, but they all pushed on.

“They refused to not get up the next day!”

Each of the participants had a unique experience which reassured them that they can regain their confidence, have strength and achieve goals if they put their minds to it and plan.

The equine therapy program works by teaching the participants that being with horses means they can be in the moment. While they are concentrating on the horses’ wellbeing and progress their minds aren’t wandering into deep thoughts.

The program is veteran oriented ad run by volunteers under program manager Max Streeter and is supported by RSL LifeCare.


Story by Liz McDougall

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