This summer, Horse Therapy sessions were implemented into the schedule for youth in residence at Cassidy Lake. This initiative comes from Amber Parlee, a clinical staff member, who wanted to share her great love of horses with Portage Atlantic youth and the many benefits these majestic creatures transfer to young people.

Amber, who owns horses herself, believes that equine therapy is an effective and beneficial program for addiction treatment because it naturally provides a stable and non-judgmental environment that allows for key learning experiences.

There is also a wealth of studies that explains how developing a relationship with a horse can provide therapeutic wellness. Indeed, working with horses has been known to help build and improve relationships, establish boundaries and trust, and develop communicational and self-awareness skills.

One of the targeted benefits to this therapeutic approach is that it changes and refocuses the attention on something outside of one’s own mindset. Interacting with horses teaches you to be aware of body language, attitude and patience because horses, like many other animals, have an innate sense of what you are feeling.

The late Ray Hunt, American horse trainer and clinician, strongly believed in those therapeutic benefits and was quoted as saying: “you’re not working on the horse, you’re working on yourself.”

In that regard, here are a couple of excerpts from young people’s testimonials.

“I was so scared at first and I wasn’t sure of myself. They assigned me to a horse, which I started to pet. I started to feel a little more comfortable and then I looked him in the eyes: I’ve never felt so calm in my entire life. There was something so peaceful in his look that it was enough to warm up my heart. Then we did an activity with our horse to get a little more comfortable and work on our trust. For the first time in my life, I really knew how it felt to trust.”

“My mind is always racing, and I have some mental health issues that often affect me on a regular basis. But the few hours I spent with those horses made me feel so charismatic, happy, and joyful. Most importantly, I felt free. Free from my mind, free from my everyday thoughts and worries.”

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