PEI

Horse therapy helps couple deal with PTSD and cancer

A Winsloe couple is using horse therapy to help them deal with difficult issues in their lives.
Ranch offers equine therapy as part of mental health treatment. 1:37

A Winsloe couple is using horse therapy to help them deal with difficult issues in their lives.

Ted and Susan Bradbury visited the Serene View Ranch on Monday to see the recently opened facilities for the first time. The ranch is an Equine Assisted Psycho-Therapy Centre owned by Caroline LeBlanc, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the field.

Ted and Susan Bradbury take part in horse therapy to help deal with issue related to post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer. (Gail Harding/CBC News)

"Equine assisted therapy is an approach that uses horses from the ground, there is no riding involved. It is using horses as a psychological tool to help clients work through issues," says LeBlanc.

Ted Bradbury is a retired RCMP officer who served 24 years in Alberta and Newfoundland. After leaving the force ten years ago and relocating to P.E.I., he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. His wife, Susan, was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through surgeries and treatment about a year ago.

The Bradburys have been working with LeBlanc and equine specialist, Mary McNevin for the past year at another location to deal with their challenges together. Both say taking part in equine therapy has been beneficial.

"I'm not the type of person that enjoys group therapy. You just talk to the horse and what the program has done for me is truly amazing," said Susan.

Dealing with trauma difficult

LeBlanc said it is sometimes difficult for people with trauma to discuss the issues they are dealing with. "The horses have a very calming affect and they welcome people. We see that is easier for clients to relax, settle and talk about their issues." 

Caroline LeBlanc is a a clinical psychologist who specializes equine assisted therapy. She recently opened Serene View Ranch in Alexandra. (Laura Meader/CBC News)

In a session clients and horses are together in an arena. The horses aren't wearing halters and aren't being led by ropes. The clients may set up objects, like large plastic blocks, in the arena to represent a situation they want to deal with that day.

"We then watch the horses to see how they will react to the objects the person has put down," said LeBlanc. "We may also have the person take the horse and show the horse and talk to the horse about what that object represents. The horses will respond and usually people will get answers."

"It has been quite helpful to both of us. The facility, the therapy, everything about it has been really good for us, for both of us," said Ted Bradbury. "It relaxes me and tends to take my mind from things I dwell on."

LeBlanc said, "In the last two and half years, working with first responders and their families with equine assisted psychotherapy, our success is so great. We're seeing such changes in people that we thought this would be the greatest thing we could do." 

Serene View Ranch has three miniature horses and three regular horses that are used in the equine therapy sessions. It also offers a variety of mental health and health professional services.

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