The Community Foundation has teamed with the Canadian Mental Health Association and horse-assisted therapists to bring horse therapy to frontline worker battling the COVID-19 pandemic free of charge. (Contributed)

The Community Foundation has teamed with the Canadian Mental Health Association and horse-assisted therapists to bring horse therapy to frontline worker battling the COVID-19 pandemic free of charge. (Contributed)

Okanagan organization says ‘thanks’ to COVID-19 frontline workers with complimentary horse therapy

Community Foundation teams with CMHA and equine therapists to offer unique mental health supports

The Community Foundation is launching an initiative to bring horse-assisted therapy to frontline workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workers in health care, law enforcement, emergency responders, care home workers, grocery store clerks, crisis line volunteers, pharmacists and more are facing the pandemic head-on, day after day and the pressures of the pandemic can have an effect on their mental health.

The Canadian Mental Health Association warns of a potential echo pandemic as a result of COVID-19, describing an influx in mental health problems associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Community Foundations in central, north and south Okanagan teamed with CMHA and hose-assisted therapists to bring the calming effects of horses to those on the frontlines free of charge.

Horse-assisted therapy is a proven method for treating people experiencing depression, anxiety and trauma-related symptoms, the foundation said in an Oct. 20 statement.

Spending time interacting with horses can draw out some of the anxiety, stress and mental strain felt by an individual. Meanwhile, clients working with a professional therapist can grow their own emotional awareness and transfer the learning that takes place with the horses and apply it to their daily lives.

“The idea came from a successful initiative in the lower mainland,” said executive director of the Community Foundation of the North Okanagan, Leanne Hammond.

“When we were approached to offer it here, it intuitively seemed like the right thing to do. We have donors who already champion equine-based therapy for stress alleviation and treatment of PTSD,” Hammond said. “As the COVID-19 situation continues the timing seems perfect to put this idea into motion for the Okanagan.”

Horse-assisted therapist Annika Voeltz said anyone can benefit from this type of therapy.

“Whoever you are and whatever you are experiencing – being with horses offers you a new perspective to life,” she said. “Horses communicate with your very core, so everything on the outside, whether it’s stress, distractions or the layers you are putting on to protect yourself from life, simply seem to disappear and let you focus on your priorities.”

Donations are being accepted online at canadahelps.org, every $75 donation funds one appreciation session.

The Community Foundation recommends nominating someone you know on the frontline, or leave it up to their team of Frontline Hero Appreciation Organizers to select someone who could benefit from a session.

For more information or to donate, visit canadahelps.org or contact the Community Foundation near you.

READ MORE: Community Foundation of South Okanagan Similkameen to provide horse-assisted therapy

READ MORE: More Vernon-Monashee candidate signs vandalized


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