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June 29, 2022

Spur, enabled by our passionate volunteer crew.

Spur Ranch, co-located with RSL LifeCare John Goodlet Manor in Picton, south of Sydney, is where the Spur Equine Program is run by Max Streeter, Spur Program Manager – RSL LifeCare Veteran Services. Spur, designed by veterans for veterans, promotes mental and physical wellbeing for wounded, injured and ill veterans and their families through horse handling and riding courses.

This year, Spur is set to have 100 veterans and veteran partners participate in equine programs, which will soon include the ability to stay on-site at Spur’s purpose-built cabins.

Max says, “Spur’s programs would not be possible without my crew of guides and instructors who are all volunteers”.

Each volunteer gives a regular weekly commitment of time to look after Spur’s eleven horses and to help deliver its program of horse handling, horse riding, and horse trekking programs to veterans and veteran families.

“We make sure that everyone who comes to volunteer here knows they are appreciated.” 

Asked what makes Spur’s volunteers unique, Max says, “the fact that they are here, giving their time to the program speaks very highly of their character…They are here healing, and helping others do the same.” And, the why volunteer? Max says, “volunteering gives many veterans something in their lives that is more important and bigger than them”.

At Spur Ranch, Max keenly points out that showing appreciation for volunteers is highly important. Max says, “we make sure that everyone who comes to volunteer here knows they are appreciated”.

“Horses are my happiness,” Pennie Looker.

Spur Volunteer, Pennie Looker, is a veteran with 19 years’ service with the Australian Army. Pennie reached the rank of Sergeant, in the psychology corps, where she was a Psychology Examiner and was deployed three times in her career.

Before becoming a Spur volunteer, and now volunteer coordinator, Pennie took part as a participant on Spur’s two-day horse-handling course. She then moved on to complete the horse-riding course and trek through the Snowy Mountains. For Pennie, getting involved with Spur’s courses was a game-changer. She was looking for alternative ways to deal with her own experiences and trauma. Pennie says “I did not want to keep talking about my trauma and stressors, I needed something that lifted me. The horses are what help me.”

Initially, Pennie was afraid to ride horses, due to her injuries. She was also highly anxious on the horses in her early days at the ranch. The crew at Spur taught Pennie how to relax around these wonderful creatures and she learned with time to be grounded in the moment.

As a core part of the Spur crew, Pennie utilises the knowledge she has learned through her military career and as a participant in the Spur Program to pass her horse handling and horse riding skills on to other course participants.

Pennie says “it’s the most rewarding thing to pass on the experience of horsemanship. Through horse riding and horse handling, you learn how to deal with anxiety, depression, and stressors. When you are with horses you have to be in the moment and calm so the horses are calm. They mirror what we put out, so it is important to learn to let go and be in the moment with the horse. When I notice a veteran is highly anxious, I use it as an opportunity to help them learn to breathe the moment in and let it go using the horse as a grounding object.”

Want to volunteer with Spur? 

We are always on the lookout for more volunteers to support our horses and help run Spur’s program of horse handling, horse riding, and trekking programs to support the mental health and wellbeing of veterans and their families.

Whether you’re a veteran or non-veteran and you love horses, with an ability to give your time each week regularly, the Spur team would love to talk to you.

Click here to submit an enquiry to volunteer with Spur Ranch.

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