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VTEA, The art of the horse teaching the human

February 28, 2012

The dedication of the people behind VTEA and the volunteers is shown by the way they talk about the program and about the people they serve. Like volunteers in so many other nonprofit organizations, some of them came to the organization by accident, others by design. For instance Brenda, the director of VTEA who showed me around the facilities and spent several hours talking to me about it, says she started because her husband Wayne got involved. Brenda serves on the board of directors, helps with administration and elsewhere when needed. She also works with a hospice society and with her church.

Wayne, who says ‘everything that nobody else does I’ll do’, tells me that he became involved because he went out one morning to help his neighbour who was stuck in the snow. That neighbour just happened to be working with VTEA. Wayne now spends 30 to 40 hours per week helping out at VTEA.

Wayne shares some of his favourite stories; about Shamal who was terrified when he first started and who now gets right on his horse and enjoys every minute of it; about Serenity, a girl of 12 years of age who wouldn’t talk or acknowledge anyone when she started, and now talks all the time; about another boy who was getting into all kinds of problems at school but at VTEA, he can count and knows his colours. As Wayne says, “when I started I had no idea how much it could help. Working here has given me a whole new way of looking at people with special needs and it makes me feel good to see how they progress.”

Like other volunteers, the work of Brenda and Wayne at VTEA has become a passion. I know they wouldn’t want to be singled out for particular recognition because that is not who they are. They do it because they can and they do it because they see the difference it makes. And sometimes it is the volunteers who gain the benefit of hippotherapy. I would like to thank one of those volunteers for sharing a personal story with me. To you, I hope that you continue to find your peace and healing.

VTEA hosts two annual horse shows where their clients can show their achievements, and encourages school field trips. Many of the volunteers are university students who gain practical experience in their pursuit of careers working with children, special needs and equine activities.

What’s next for VTEA? VTEA has plans to add semi-private and group lessons when appropriate for the riders to help improve social interaction and is developing a more structured training program for volunteers. It is also exploring a therapeutic driving program, horse agility classes and a teen & kids club to bring together those that have difficulty meeting others with similar interests and developing friendships. Of particular interest is VTEA’s “Hoof Prints” program which is ‘the art of the horse teaching the human’. This program will target addiction and substance abuse, grief support, trauma and abuse support, at risk youth, First Nations, and learning challenges. The skills to be learned will include assertiveness, problem-solving, confidence building, self-esteem, intuition, stress management, empathy, trust, healing and communication.

VTEA is a big operation – while only their primary instructors, barn staff and some office staff are paid for their time, caring properly for horses is expensive. VTEA has been funded by a Community Gaming Grant from the BC Government, by donations from many organizations such as the BC Hot Rod Association and the Langley Good Times Cruise-In Society, and from some private foundations. But it also depends extensively for support on businesses and individuals. Even kids can contribute to the “Pennies for Ponies” fund. If you would like to support VTEA or know of someone who would benefit from their programs, you can contact them at Valley Therapeutic Equestrian Association.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 6, 2012 10:20 am

    Thanks very much. I appreciate your comments. I have many more interesting blogs to come.

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