Rotarian Leo Smith, school chaplain Linda Sutton, Ellie the horse, student Mae, Helen Sorensen and rotarian James Macready. Picture: Graham Lukins
Rotarian Leo Smith, school chaplain Linda Sutton, Ellie the horse, student Mae, Helen Sorensen and rotarian James Macready. Picture: Graham Lukins

Innovative therapy with horses helps students be strong

An innovative program is teaming up children with horses to give the young students a better understanding of themselves.

The initiative has been made possible thanks to a long-running partnership between Mooloolaba Rotary, Equine Alliance and Mooloolaba State School.

Equine Alliance’s Helen Sorensen, based in Palmwoods, runs the equine assisted counselling and personal development program, (Eagala).

She said the program was a non-riding initiative which focused on the children, not the horse.

“It is strength based with the focus on human skills, not horse skills,” she said.

“The Eagala model is about clients being and learning about themselves.

“Horses have no agenda and give immediate feedback. They are honest, which makes them powerful messengers.

“Horses can foster change and provide healing by responding to sensory and somatic experiences in a way therapist cannot.

Ms Sorensen said horses could teach teenagers about the consequences of actions.

“Adolescents grow intellectually and emotionally through feedback from their environment,” she said.

“With equine assisted psychotherapy change develops by learning through consequences of actions and developing new responses and actions rather than insight which is in this age group typically immature.”

Chappy Linda from Mooloolaba State School praised the program.

“Equine therapy has been such a wonderful and enriching experience for our students,” she said.

“Each student connects in a real way to the horse they are working with each week. Learning so much about themselves and the best way to solve problems that they face.

“Helen Sorenson’s process supports students in discovering this for themselves with, of course, the help from the horses.

We are incredibly blessed to have the financial support of Mooloolaba Rotary Club and the Rotarians volunteering each week to attend these sessions.

“Feedback from the students is very positive, as one young student said ‘Chappy, equine is the best experience I have ever had. I learnt so much about myself. Thank you’.”

Mooloolaba Rotary co-ordinator Pam Purvis said: “Our Rotary volunteers see the change in the students over the six weeks of the program, making this a very rewarding and worthwhile partnership, one which we hope will continue for years to come.”

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