Healing horses make a significant difference in children’s lives

New confidence: One of the children, Cody, who has benefited from the equine programme. Photo supplied.

Sometimes, horses make the best listeners – a safe place for children to express their thoughts or concerns. Other times, feeling the support of the horse below them gives kids the strength to try something new.


Whatever the reason – and for that there are many – one thing is certain, the interaction between horses and the children staying at Stand Children’s Services village has significant benefits.


It’s why, in the past, the service has stretched the budget to find ways to make it work, and why Rotorua Trust has once again thrown its support behind the programme, with a $10,000 grant to enable almost 200 children to take part in the programme.


Stand Children’s Services regional manager Toni Hocquard says the equine programme, run through Riding for the Disabled since 2012, is a significant therapy for the children staying at the village.


Stand Children’s Services caters for children aged between 5 and 12-years-old from across the Central North Island who are dealing with a difficult or challenging time in their lives.   The reasons are broad – ranging from poverty, mental health, to the loss of a family member.


“There are a range of reasons why a child isn’t experiencing the ideal life journey. There are no labels, it is about understanding what happened to this child and family, and how we can help the family heal.”


Time and time again, Ms Hocquard sees the benefits of the equine programme in helping transform timid, anxious children into more confident ones, who can demonstrate empathy and strong relationship building.


“They can have really healthy, honest relationships with a horse. Kids sometimes come in being really scared and by the end of it they are able to stand on a horse’s back.”


Ms Hocquard says the benefits are extremely powerful and act like ripples on a pond – building more confident and calmer children, better able to engage with people and activities.


“The programme has always stretched the budget but has been considered so valuable that Stand has made it work. However, costs have gone up considerably, and we were finding it increasingly challenging to continue with the programme.


“We really appreciate the support from the Rotorua Trust. They have always been willing to support the work we are doing.”


Last year the Trust gave $6,600 to help 110 children attend four sessions each, and Rotorua Trust chairman Stewart Edward says the Trust is proud to be able to increase the funding this year.


“The research shows therapeutic riding is a great way to see remarkable changes in children with social issues. The results achieved through the programme show the equine programme helps them to cope with some of the issues which led them to Stand in the first place.”


Mr Edward says the funding fits in with several priority areas for the Trust, including a focus on whanau and health.


It is one of 18 grants the Rotorua Trust during February and March, worth a total of $115,300.


Other funding includes $10,000 for Kidscan Charitable Trust, $4,000 towards the staging of the recent walking festival and $2,000 to help Dementia Lakes stage a seminar on dementia.