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Monarto horse charity hopes to stay a-float
The Lincoln Park Horse and Human Rehabilitation Centre needs the community’s support to stay in business.
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Lincoln Park is a not-for-profit charity that helps both horses in need and people with mental health issues and disabilities, along with anyone who wants to destress.
Due to COVID-19 and the current financial climate, president Sonya Little said the centre was at serious risk of closure and needed more clients, sponsors and donors to remain viable.
The centre homes around 60 rescue horses and offers equine therapy, a technique for improving people’s mental health through horses.
When Ms Little left home at 16, the first thing she did was buy a horse, as she had always loved horses.
She initially made the connection between mental health and horses through her own personal situation.
“I suffer from bipolar (disorder), and horses have been part of my journey getting better,” she said.
“Also, I was looking into PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) for veterans because my dad’s a Vietnam vet.
“I realised that horses can have similar triggers and trust issues as people.
“A lot of techniques I was using to calm horses’ anxiety and that sort of thing are also used on people, so I thought, ‘Why not combine the two?’”
Research has found that when people are physically close to horses, the people’s brain waves can become more positive, Ms Little said.
“Studies show when you’re around a horse, your breathing, digestion et cetera will all match the horse,” she said.
“Even people who are quite scared of horses will leave here relaxed.”
For its equine therapy, Lincoln Park uses rescue horses that may have suffered neglect or abuse or come from RSPCA seizures.
The therapy at the centre involves varying levels of interaction between the clients and horses and benefits both.
“We help people from domestic violence, and we’ve got horses who match – as the horse grows in confidence, the person does,” Ms Little said.
“By helping people through this journey when they’re working with the horses, it’s a win-win.”
Different from clinical counselling, Lincoln Park’s equine therapy helps people deal with issues – such as mental illness, autism, bullying and substance abuse – without direct counselling.
“We say to people, ‘We’re not here to counsel you; the horses are your counsellors ... I’m just here to make sure you don’t get hurt,” Ms Little said.
Ms Little pointed out that the equine therapy and other activities at Lincoln Park – riding lessons and therapeutic trail rides – have health and wellbeing benefits for everyone.
“You don’t have to have a mental health problem or disability to come here,” she said.
“I’ve had nursing staff come here from an emergency room to destress.
“And kids going though year 12 are really stressed, but this decompression has helped with their studies.
“It’s also good for people’s confidence – when you’re handling big animals, people don’t seem so scary.”
Ms Little hoped that more people could support her work to keep the business alive.
“We know people are doing it hard, but we try to keep our prices fairly low – whatever we charge goes straight back into the horses,” she said.
“I want to make what we do affordable, so that the people who need it the most can afford it.”
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