The closer The Ride Across Canada got their end destination St. John’s, Newfoundland last November 9th, the more it felt like we had just started something. We had bridged the gap between our veterans and their communities. We had educated communities and inspired them to lift their heads up and recognize their contemporary veterans in a stronger way. We encouraged veterans to own the title of ‘Veteran’ proudly, to share their stories, and to be a part of community. We had lit fires all across Canada and now it is time to tend to those fires. One of the most significant aspects of The Ride was the positive influence of the horses on our veterans. Terry Nichols put all 360 veterans that were on horseback on The Ride Across Canada through a short version of her Equine Assisted Mindfulness program before they joined her husband, Paul, on the road. The results were significant.
This equine program brings awareness to our personal tools and we can see them reflected back to us in the horses that we are interacting with. The horses are herd animals with a very similar culture to a platoon of soldiers. They have a need for strong leadership, they require the herd for safety, they appreciate clear communication and they need to know where they fit in the herd in order for the dynamics to run smoothly. The veterans that rode with us could understand this because of the similarities to military culture and they were motivated to earn their place as ‘leader’ for their horse. The other aspects of the horse’s needs include sensitivity and awareness. They are a prey animal, and their flight instinct is triggered by tension, intensity, quick movements, and anxiety. In order to gain trust and respect from the horses we must have an awareness and control of these aspects of our interactions. When we meet our horses needs for both leadership and sensitivity, we become clear communicators with an awareness for healthy relationship. When we are at our best, that is when our horses are relaxed, motivated, and attentive. This is where relationship and trust are built. Once we gain an understanding and are able to make changes in ourselves, we can take these new skills out of our work with horses and transfer them to relationship with a spouse, our children, civilian workplace, etc. Working with the horses is an interactive and motivating way to gain new awareness and tools for mentally resiliency and relationship. Communities For Veterans Foundation is now running their Equine Assisted Mindfulness Program out of Pen-Y-Bryn Farm in Quesnel, B.C.. The first program starts May 22nd and we are proud and excited to be hosting veterans from across Canada.
Veterans attending the programs will be paired with an equine partner for the duration of their stay. They will learn to care for their horse’s physical and mental needs and will learn the skills to be a leader and a partner with the horse. In the process there will be new awareness of personal tools and the supportive environment to create new tools within this awareness. These skills are transferable and parallels are created between relationship with the horses and other relationships outside of the program. When not working with their equine partner the veterans will be immersed in farm life with the goal of strengthening transition tools therefore strengthening personal resiliency, relationships and families.