June 16th, 2024

LTRA brings equine therapy downtown


By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on February 26, 2022.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman People gather around to greet the horses as the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association offered their program Horses in the Park Friday afternoon at Galt Gardens.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Thanks to the Re-Imagine Downtown Activation Grant, the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association is able to offer their program Horses in the Park every second Friday.
The program was piloted in August 2021 and ran through the fall, and thanks to the grant will be able to run all year round.
“The idea is to bring the benefits of equine therapy to the park, for the park visitors to enjoy so there’s no agenda beyond that,” said Jason Shriner, executive director of the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association.
He said it is a moment of joy, as animals tend to bring out the best of people and horses in particular, are very empathetic and they sense our feelings.
“It just it makes people happy, the regulars in the park get uplifted. We come along with AHS, their outreach teams, and they walk along with us and the horses,” said Shriner.
Recreation therapist with Alberta Health Services addiction and mental health, Heidi Davis, said the horses help people feel comfortable to reach out as they are not intimidating.
“Our outreach team is doing a lot of work engaging the vulnerable population in Lethbridge and trying to really provide access to healthcare or address some of the gaps in health outcomes that people are experiencing,” said Davis.
She said that coming to the park with the horses is an opportunity to have conversations and maybe find out what people’s needs are. It might be about getting ID or access to a nurse, or support in booking a medical appointment, or support booking transportation.
“We’ve had people inquire about getting into detox or a support with addiction counsellors or nurses, so we often have our harm reduction team here when horses are here,” said Davis.
She said they are trying to meet people outside of a brick-and-mortar healthcare establishment and are trying to meet their needs.
“The horses provide such a beautiful opportunity to connect because it’s not intimidating, it’s not threatening, the horses are sort of equalizers,” said Davis.
She said they take the opportunity to talk about the horses, and sometimes that leads to talking about their experiences and their histories and whatever has brought them to that moment.
“Sometimes it’s just about leaning into the horses and warming up for a second sharing a story or two and then moving on with the day,” said Davis.
She said it is a great way to come together as a community.

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