Shepparton therapy program Horses for Hope faces an uncertain future due to a lack of money.By John Lewis
A unique Shepparton-based therapy program that uses horses to help deal with fear and anxiety faces closure because of a lack of funding.
Horses for Hope, run by UnitingCare Cutting Edge at Kialla East for the past seven years, has helped hundreds of horses and people battling emotional problems, including those affected by the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009.
However, program manager Colin Emonson said Horses for Hope was ‘‘very close’’ to shutting down since funding from the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority ran out in July last year.
Since then it has been subsidised by donations and by UnitingCare Cutting Edge, but funds are running out.
‘‘We desperately need $10
He said therapy sessions cost $300.
‘‘We have to have two people at a session, and horses eat money,’’ he said.
Mr Emonson said the therapy program used a combination of American horse trainer Monty Roberts’ Join-Up techniques and his own 25-year experience as a counsellor.
‘‘This is for people who are not ready to talk about their trauma. It’s a totally unique program that teaches people to manage their emotions through connecting with a troubled horse,’’ he said.
He said horses and people gained from the experience.
‘‘Horses see humans as predators, but through training they can see us as safe and as leaders,’’ he said.
‘‘It gives people a lovely feeling to have a horse turn from being scared to come to you — it’s spine tingling.’’
He said the program had helped about 100 people a year, including those with depression and mental illness, pre-release prisoners, refugees, families in crisis and troubled teenagers.
It has also worked with people and horses from the Kinglake Ranges affected by the 2009 fires.
Horses traumatised by neglect, mistreatment or abuse are also involved in the program.
Mr Emonson said Horses for Hope was widely recognised.
‘‘We have had organisations from across Australia and around the world interested in duplicating it. It would be a terrible shame to lose it here in Shepparton, where it began,’’ he said.
Tameka Davis, 15, from Kyabram, has been attending Horses for Hope sessions since November.
‘‘Everything you learn you can apply outside the horse yard too,’’ she said.
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