A new youth equine-centred therapy will be launching in the Grande Prairie area this fall, with the support of the Grande Prairie Stompede. During the second annual Stompede Gala and Tarp-Sale the UNBRIDLED program was unveiled, with the Stompede announcing they will be donating $25,000 a year for the next three years to the program. The program will be run by PARDS Therapeutic Centre in addition to therapy programs already being offered by the organization.
Executive Director Jennifer Douglas says UNBRIDLED has been many years in the making, and focuses directly on helping youth work through experienced traumas in a healthy and empowered way.
“The horse is whatever the youth needs them to be in that moment and that is what is so powerful and almost magical about – equine-assisted therapy,” Douglas says. “A horse will mirror your emotions, so it really helps anyone to process where they are at because sometimes the hardest thing to do is name what you are going through.”
She adds for many going through trauma is one of the loneliest journeys and times a person can go through, but when you are partnered with a horse there is no judgement or worry about “what will they think of me when I am finished what I have to say or describing what I have had to go through.”
“They are just there, there with you and there for you.”
She says making the announcement at the April 1st event and having the support from the Stompede makes the launch of a program a true reality.
“This is the last hurdle, it’s not going to be an ‘oh yes everything is in place except we can’t pay for it,’ so this is, not just a safety net – but it’s an amazing jumping off point.”
She adds she is grateful that when Stompede heard about the UNBRIDLED program they felt it aligned with the work they have done and continue to do in the community. Along with the equine partner, the youth will also work with a mental health professional.