Innovative Front Line Heroes Program
By Christine Ross - CanTRA Vice president, Lynn Moseley and; By Kristin Griffin from Valley Therapeutic Equestrian Association
Throughout Canada, therapeutic riding centres have been struggling to find ways to maintain their programs and provide vital services to their clients in the face of a multitude of challenges presented by COVID-19. As provinces undertake their phased approach to reopening and finding ways to cope with the pandemic, so too have therapeutic riding centres.
Photo: Charles Zuckerman and Zenna Wong of Humans of Support
Valley Therapeutic Equestrian Association (VTEA) in Langley, BC, created the very innovative Front Line Heroes Program, which has been an inspiration to the therapeutic riding community nationwide. This recreational therapeutic equine experience aims to provide relief to front line workers from the mental stress and anxiety experienced working on the front lines of the pandemic. These equine assisted activities can play a significant role in alleviating stress, anxiety, and depression relating to trauma. The one-hour session with one of the therapy horses is run under the guidance of a CanTRA certified instructor and a mental health professional, who work together on stress and anxiety reducing strategies, using breathing and mindfulness techniques as well as stretching exercises to release tension. Staff and participants are taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 using social distancing, face masks and shields, along with frequent hand-washing and sanitizing.
In tandem with the Front Line Heroes Program, VTEA launched a fundraising program, which provides the opportunity for members of the public to sponsor a Front Line Hero for a Recreational Therapeutic Equine Experience at the cost of $60. This fundraiser also provides a way to make a session available to those who may not be able to afford one. To date more than 50 sessions have been donated to the program.
Valley Therapeutic Equestrian Association was recently nominated for the Langley Chamber of Commerce Excellence Awards in the category of Outstanding Support. This award recognizes an organization or business that has shown exemplary responses to the COVID-19 crisis to ensure the well-being of their employees, customers, and community. VTEA continues to develop programs in the mental health area to help others in the community who find themselves on the front lines of the fight against the burgeoning mental health crisis.
“The program put on by Valley was a light in the darkness. It was a place I could forget the day-to-day stressors at work, to talk about my feelings, to put behind me the worry and fear. The bond I felt with Rosie [the horse] lifted my spirits and brought a joy that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Somehow, she just knew that I was struggling — she was peaceful and calm, and that’s what my soul needed.” — Janet, BC Health Worker, participant in the Front Line Heroes Program.
Main Photo: Mike Bradley