In the South Cariboo, horses are helping individuals overcome aspects of their lives that might have otherwise been holding them back.
“Horses have the ability to quietly heal past trauma and encourage individuals to keep going forward in their lives,” said Taylor Ormiston, the woman behind Connect Uniequus, an Equine Assisted Learning program based in Lac la Hache and Williams Lake. “As highly social and perceptive prey animals, horses have the ability to awaken within us our most evolved and conscious selves.”
Ormiston has been using this forward-thinking program to tackle and develop life skills in individuals for three years. Her primary focus is youth-at-risk and families but she also teaches corporate development courses for team-building and effective communication.
“I first discovered this kind of learning when I was in a program for youth at risk. Now, I have eight horses in total,” Ormiston said. “There are four here in Lac la Hache and four horses in Williams Lake.”
Equine Assisted Learning is an experiential method of developing and fostering life skills. The programs are progressive and flexible. Each session is determined by individual needs and goals, rather than being set out through a specific treatment model.
“There are various different goals we work towards – communication and leadership, self-confidence, team building, healing and recovering from trauma as well as treating symptoms of mental illness or addiction.”
Ormiston said these programs give youth and adults a unique experience that enables them to experience new ways of behaving and how they choose to interact under different situations.
“Horses have the ability to read facial expressions and can communicate with body language,” said Ormiston. “They mirror even the most carefully hidden emotions when working with people. It’s quite incredible and such a different experience in comparison to talk-therapy. It opens up a lot of opportunities for people to learn experientially.”
Ormiston has been able to witness individuals develop certain attributes and self-confidence when they have had no previous engagement with horses before.
“I see the connections these individuals make with the horses and it’s different from person to person. I know my horses really well, but sometimes, people will bring things out in my horses, that I might not have expected and it’s very nice to witness that.”