Horses help emotional healing

A posh horse-racing event is supporting a therapy programme in the northern suburbs that uses horses to help young people in tough neighbourhoods hold on to their dreams of a better life.

MontroseFoundation’s Equine Youth Development programme at De Grendel wine farm, in Durbanville, uses horses to remedy dysfunctional behaviour and teach youth how to deal with difficulties in their lives.

The foundation was named the official beneficiary of the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (LQP), which took place at Kenilworth racecourse, on Friday and Saturday January 6 and 7. The foundation has been getting support from LQP since 2011.

“The use of horses as a means of rehabilitation seemed a good fit with ours being a horse-racing event,” said LQP co-ordinator Katherine Gray.

The foundation was established in 2008 and has helped 551 youth from various NGOs over the years through its equine programme.

“For many of these children, interacting with horses is the first time in their lives that they experience an authentic relationship. These keenly intuitive animals continue to heal and help many young people to see their own potential and interest in living a fulfilling life through the process of equine-assisted intervention,” said Montrose Foundation general manager, Sunette de Flamingh.

Ms De Flamingh said getting the youth out of their stressful environment and giving them a chance to look at their situation from a different perspective in a tranquil, rural setting was key to the programme’s success.

The eight-week programme has two parts; the first tackles things like drugs, gangsterism, teenage pregnancy and peer pressure, by helping to change the participants’ attitudes.

The second part tries to accelerate the learning and emotional healing process by focussing on the young people’s interactions with the horses.

Just touching or brushing the horses helped to create a “connection”, said Ms De Flamingh.

“We have seen over and over again how social barriers of anger, resentment, hyperactivity, rudeness, hurt, guilt, shyness, introversion or extroversion, to name a few, completely melt away in the presence of these majestic animals, and as the true person emerges this authenticity allows them to process their situation at their own pace.”

The programme isn’t cheap: it costs R10000 for a single youth to attend a two-hour session once a week for eight weeks, according to the foundation’s website.

Ms De Flamingh said the horses’ upkeep was costly and the foundation relied on donations to keep the programme going.

Last year, LQP’s donation to the foundation helped 16 youth from the Durbanville Children’s Home and Bosasa Horizon take part.

“It is inspiring to witness the emotional growth and positive life changes in these children. It makes us deeply grateful to the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate for its continued support,” said Ms De Flamingh.