The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is partnering with a St. John's non-profit organization to provide equine therapy to first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The RNC's mounted unit, which features four horses used mainly for patrols and crowd control, will be based part time on the Rainbow Riders' grounds on Mount Scio Road to deliver the Heroes Equine Learning Program, an Ontario-based charity.
"I think there's a great need. I think that horses can provide such a calm and comforting feeling to a lot of people, especially our horses where they're so big and they're so beautiful and majestic," Const. Kelsey Muise told CBC News on Wednesday.
Muise spearheaded the program after meeting with the leaders of the organization in Ottawa. The registered charity provides horse-assisted psychotherapy and personal development for military, first responders and their families.
The program takes seven people on a four-day retreat filled with equine therapy and mindfulness activities.
Lending a hand
Muise has been a member of the RNC for 18 years, and a part of the mounted unit for the last three. Several years ago she was ready to hang up her hat after being diagnosed with PTSD stemming from traumatic events she experienced on the force, but said Chief Joe Boland helped save her career by offering her a position on the mounted unit.
"I was finished. I was ready to leave it all behind and walk away," Muise said. "But the universe had a different plan."
Boland told CBC News that sharing resources with Rainbow Riders — a therapeutic riding program that helps children and adults with various physical, emotional, cognitive or social disabilities — will have many benefits, including efficiencies in delivering the program to those who are struggling.
As part of the partnership, the RNC added four new horse stalls to the Rainbow Riders facility, a new command trailer and upgraded electrical, plumbing, and surveillance systems.
This will now be a second home to the four RNC horses for most of the year, with the unit returning to the Government House grounds for the summer.
"The idea at first was strictly about the wellness of the horses," Boland said, adding the facilities at Government House are ideal for the summer, but the horses needed a better home with plenty of room to exercise over the winter.
But the move also presented an opportunity to help more first responders and their families.
"This is very real work when you're talking about policing or military, fire or paramedics," said Boland.
"Some of the things they see, touch, smell, read, it impacts them and they struggle sometimes to be able to deal with it. This is to help that community be able to better deal with what we ask them to do every single day."