Horses that help to heal

Children take part in the Chilliwack Hospice Society’s Horse Whisperer Grief Camp last year.

by Andrea Rendall

Black Press

Losing a loved one is a painful experience, but there are opportunities to help lighten the burden. The Chilliwack Hospice Society will be hosting a Horse Whisperper Grief Camp, Saturday, June 11 at White Dove Stables, for children and teens experiencing loss.

The Grief Camp will use equine guided development to help children six to 18 to cope with grief. Equine guided development is a type of therapy in which horses are considered co-partners or co-therapists that help individuals sort out their true feelings with the help and supervision of a human therapist. 

For example, If a person feels broken down or anxious, but presents himself as calm and collected on the outside, most people won’t be able to recognize that something is wrong. 

But horses are different. 

For a horse, a person in this state will appear “fuzzy” or “incongruent.” Horses are mirrors for human emotions. During an equine guided development session, if a horse appears anything other than calm and grounded, then it is clear to the human therapist that the client is struggling with his true internal feelings. This helps the client address his feelings so that the animal can relax and the client and horse can begin a relationship. 

“Horses are very adept at mirroring and reflecting what someone’s internal or authentic environment is,” says clinical counsellor Sandra Wallin, who will be the on-site therapist for the camp. 

Participants will be given the opportunity to reflect and communicate in mini workshops at a variety of stations. The workshops will give the children opportunities to create artworks with equine themes, and a chance to reflect on their feelings. 

Past activities have included sewing a button blanket and featured an Aboriginal drummer. 

“We offer an experience of normalizing death through conversation and by being in the midst of other people that have had a similar loss,” says Coletta Holmes, program co-ordinator for the Chilliwack Hospice Society.

For more information or to register, please contact Coletta Holmes at 604-795-4660 or email coletta@chilliwackhospice.org.