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Equine program helping West Care clients take back the reins

Equine program helping West Care clients take back the reins

Equine program helping West Care clients take back the reins

17 May 2017

The Equine Mentor Program founded by Chrystal Moore is giving young people confidence, not just with horses, but in facing the challenges in their lives.

By Jessica Morris

An equine mentor program started by Salvation Army West Care in Mount Cottrell, Victoria, is transforming people’s lives. Created by residential unit manager Chrystal Moore, the Reconnect Program matches clients with a horse, providing them with more confidence, life skills and achievable goals.

West Care clients (who are in out-of-home, residential, lead tenant or foster care) are referred to the Reconnect Program on a case by case basis, where it is assessed if the 12-week equine mentor program will be beneficial to them.

“Most of our young people have poor or disrupted attachment, which limits their ability to build or maintain successful relations. Role modelling relations using horses is a fun and relaxing way to explore the young person’s ability to care and nurture, to accept fault in others, rejection, love, affection and commitment,” says Chrystal, who started the program several years ago.

“To me this is the most important experience we can give young people so that they can go on into the world and hold successful relationships with others, being animal and human.”

Developing the program out of her own love for horses as a teenager, Chrystal understood the profound impact such a program could have on West Care clients. Beginning with a single client, today the equine therapy model (known as an equine mentor program) serves seven clients.

“Be there one or 10 young people, there will always be a place for young people to reconnect at Aldon Park,” says Chrystal.

Young people in the program develop a relationship with their horse, learn to care and nurture it, and also ride it. This gives them a sense of fulfilment and often allows them to develop their own long-term goals and apply for jobs. For many it gives them the option of working with horses in the future.
“The biggest [change] I have seen [in our clients] is confidence,” says Chrystal. “Our young people also start to talk positively about themselves. The first week, they are not confident, nervous and often think they don't have futures or that they are stuck in this stigma of being a kid in out of home care. By the third week they are telling me how good they are with their horse, how they are becoming good at riding and how proud they are of themselves.
“I love hearing kids boast about themselves, stand proud and know that they can achieve things and they can have these experiences and they deserve these experiences.”

Like West Care, Salvation Army aged care facility Barrington Lodge in New Town, Tasmania, also utilises pet therapy to benefit clients. Every Wednesday at 10am, Dotty the Labrador (pictured right) visits residents through Delta Pets.

“Our residents are always waiting for Dotty to arrive and ask what time she will be here,” says Cherrie Phillips, Leisure and Lifestyle Co-ordinator at Barrington Lodge. “She is much loved by all of our residents and contributes to their health and wellbeing by bringing love, warmth, enjoyment and conversation.”

This innovative way of caring for clients is proving to be a practical and heartwarming way for the Salvos to connect with people who need them the most. And whether it is a group of young people learning to groom a horse, or an aged care resident giving Dotty a treat, it’s amazing to see how the mission of the Army is reaching the community.
“I think work with animals is so important for all ages, there is something about a horse that just lifts the bad parts of your day away,” says Chrystal.

“I have been amazed at the changes and reactions from our young people. I am so glad that we have made this available to them and that I am a part of giving those young people those experiences.”





  1. Outstanding Equine program creating real transformation in young people's lives.

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