The Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association is hosting a one-day workshop on March 21 for first responders in the Valley, where horses will be introduced to them as a means of assisting with mental wellness.
Studies have shown that working with horses can lower blood pressure, heart rate, alleviate stress, and improve mental health. These benefits are especially important for first responders who often experience post-traumatic-stress-disorder, burnout, and other side effects from their high-stress jobs.
CTRA is welcoming fire fighters, paramedics and police officers from the community to benefit from their horses and learn to work with these gentle animals in a low-pressure environment.
S/Sgt. Chris Swain, from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment who is assisting with the project, said horses are proven to be able to assist in all types of therapy for people of all ages.
“CTRA’s employees and volunteers provide the evidence to back this statement up,” he said. “Many first responders have stressful and challenging jobs. As supervisors, we should be trying to improve the mental wellness and resiliency of our employees.”
Swain said that drawing from his experience as a volunteer with the CTRA, the detachment began holding periodic team-building events and learning horse-handling techniques to support therapeutic riding lessons.
“It was a natural progression to work with the CTRA in developing a program to introduce first responders to the therapeutic benefits of equine activities,” he said.