Grand Falls-Windsor initiative pairs people with horses for mental wellness

·4 min read

Helping others and using horses to do it is something Kathie Lane had long thought about.

The Grand Falls-Windsor resident is the owner of Adventure Stables in the community and had long sought a way to blend that love of horses with her desire to promote strong mental health.

Lane has been working with horses for about 50 years and she knows the benefits the impressive animals can have on a person's mental wellness.

She also saw an opportunity to promote the benefits of equine therapy when it comes to helping people with their mental-health struggles.

The Stable Way was born to make that dream a reality.

“We can help people let down those barriers and, when they let them down, the healing begins,” said Lane, who became a certified qualified equine specialist with the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association in 2019.

A relatively new venture, the Stable Way is intended to be a peer-led mental-health initiative that incorporates horses into their work.

It connects people with horses in a safe and controlled environment, and aims to combine the benefits of being outdoors with guided interaction with horses to help them with their mental health.

Those interactions with the 15 horses and one donkey, at the stables, are guided through peer support.

The group will pair people with an animal and give them instruction on best practices, while also helping them through every and all interactions.

“Where we’ve all struggled with mental health, we’ve been through the system trying to get help, trying to recover through it,” said Christina Loder, one of the program’s peer supporters. “We know a lot of the struggles that exist, and we wanted to do something that was accessible for anybody.

"Being around horses for all of us has, I’d say, saved our lives.”

Loder is one of four such peer support volunteers with the Stable Way. Each of them has had their struggles with their mental health, and the support they found at the Adventure Stables helped each of them immensely.

They have experienced being a part of the barn family — as Lane calls it — and believe that experience is something they can use to help others.

That’s why they became a part of the Stable Way.

“We’re just trying to do this for someone else now,” said peer supporter Kaitlyn Hickey.

The program is designed to welcome anyone who feels they are struggling. If they wake up one morning and find they’re struggling, they can call to make an appointment at the barn.

Each of those appointments comes with a nominal fee that will be put back into the program. Other initiatives are free. The group often visits seniors' homes in the area, where the residents can interact with the stables’ miniature horses and their donkey through their bedroom windows.

The stable aims to be inclusive and anyone is welcome, to help some of the people who may otherwise fall through the cracks of the system.

“There can never be too many mental-health and wellness options in the community,” said Angel Osmond, a social worker in her professional life who helps peer support supervision and consulting. “So, we can expand on that and add on to the services that already exist.”

For those who feel they need some more clinical help with their treatment, the Stable Way can refer people to its partner, AHHWellness.

Peer supporter Amanda Rice said she wishes she had found Lane and the barn sooner.

Rice said she has struggled with anxiety for most of her life, and it’s been only recently that she has been dealing with complications from post-traumatic stress disorder after a car accident five years ago.

Those complications forced her to step back from a job in Gander.

Being at the Adventure Stables and working with the others for the last several months, she has seen a change in her wellness, and it's part of why she wants to help others, Rice said.

“I wish I had gotten here earlier because it is something that I didn’t know that I needed," she said. “It is definitely a puzzle piece that I was missing.”

Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice