The Power of the Herd: Building Resilience

I am really proud of this team and I’m taking this opportunity recognize and celebrate our success. We recently concluded the first two 8 week sessions of Building Internal Resilience Through Horses program for young women. Our final session was all about celebrating the learning and self-awareness gained over the course of the program. We’ve recently welcomed two new groups to the farm with an introduction to the herd. Ultimately between 60 – 80 young women are expected to complete the offering over the next three years.

The program is open to young women aged 13 – 18 who have witnessed or experienced family conflict, dating violence, or other forms of abuse. The program is designed to promote healthy self-esteem, emotional awareness, coping skills and personal resilience. It is being funded by Public Health Agency of Canada. Participants have an opportunity to learn and grow through a free 12-week group program which combines expressive arts, education and an opportunity to work in partnership with the herd at The Mane Intent.

Building Internal Resilience Through Horses is the product of a team of individuals (and horses) whose combined talents and experiences have culminated in the creation of an offering that I believe really is already making a difference. This is a shout-out to each of those individuals and a personal thank-you for the opportunity to share this experience with them every step of the way:

Sonya Vellenga, Executive Director, Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre: Sonya and I met at a local Philanthropy Forum event over two years ago. We were sitting next to each other. When I shared that I had an equine coaching business during the introductions, she invited me to submit a proposal to the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre for an 8-week program for young women. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to support Sonya’s vision for a program that helps to build resilience for young women who have experienced early life trauma and responded immediately.

Sonya is the project lead. Her work experience includes 18 years of service in Child Welfare and over 6 years of Teaching experience at Fleming College in a variety of areas including a course that explores Family Maltreatment and Intimate Partner Violence across the Lifespan. This project fits in well with the Centre’s vision of providing opportunity for young people who are working towards equitable and respectful change in their relationships and their communities.

The Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre is a not-for-profit, charitable organization established to provide sexual assault services and public education in the City of Peterborough, City of Kawartha Lakes and throughout the Counties of Peterborough, Northumberland and Haliburton.

Shortly after we received notice that our application for funding was a success, Sonya and I spent a week together in Vancouver attending a national conference on Family Violence. The experience was a ‘crash course’ in team building and after spending every waking moment together over a 7 day period, we passed the test with flying colours. Sonya has been a wonderful coach throughout the project and I am grateful for her vision and leadership.

Dr. Kateryna (Katia) Keefer, Assistant Professor, Psychology, Trent University: In November, 2015, Sonya introduced Dr. Keefer and I at a meeting to discuss our ‘expression of interest’ proposal to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s to seek funding for the Building Internal Resilience Through Horses Program. Katia is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Trent University and is the research lead on the Building Internal Resilience Through Horses Project. She is brilliant and thoughtful with a quiet sense of humour.

Her program of research is focused on the developmental dynamics and applications of socioemotional competencies in the promotion of wellness and resilience across the lifespan. As an emerging scholar, Dr. Keefer has co-authored over 30 journal articles and book chapters on the topics of emotional intelligence, resilience, mental health, and psychological assessment; delivered numerous invited talks and conference presentations on these topics; and is currently co-editing the Springer Handbook of Emotional Intelligence in Education.

Dr. Keefer’s team includes next generation researchers with a growing list of academic achievements who are also supporting the program, including: Nicole Oattes, Alexandra Ha, and Emilie Storey-Hurtubise.

I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Dr. Keefer and her team at Trent as they study the value of working with horses as natural coaches. As a graduate of Trent, it is pleasing to know that researchers at its Emotion and Health Research Laboratory are promoting research activities that extend current knowledge about emotions, health and success in life; translating this knowledge into practice via educational, vocational and wellness programs; and training new researchers, educators and health care professionals.

Katie McKeiver, Social Worker, Building Internal Resilience Through Horses: I initially met Katie in the boardroom at KSAC. She was one of the interview candidates for a newly position we were creating to support the Building Internal Resilience Through Horses program. Sonya had graciously invited me to participate in the interview process. Katie’s confidence, competence and experience were clear almost immediately. I felt she would be a great fit with the program and she is. We were thrilled when she accepted the offer to take on this role supporting the program.

Katie has been involved with other projects at Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre in the past including The Clothesline Project, Weaving Our Voices, The Tea and Talk Toolkit, and the Volunteer Hours In a Box. Some of Katie’s other experience includes mentoring youth at a therapeutic farm, and working with youth in remote northern Ontario communities. Katie holds a Bachelors of Social Work from the University of Victoria and has over 5 years experience in Social Service in the City of Peterborough. Katie is committed to practicing trauma-informed, anti-oppressive, critical social work. Providing therapeutic services to marginalized youth, who have experienced trauma, is a deeply personal, passion for Katie and it shows in her work.

Susan Hardy, Associate Equine Program Facilitator, The Mane Intent: I have had the pleasure of working with Susan on a variety of client workshops and team building days at The Mane Intent for the past two years. Susan is a certified FEEL™ (Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning) facilitator. Susan brings to this work over 20 years in corporate learning and management. She has provided personal and professional coaching, organized international conferences and facilitated workshops enabling professional growth using Jungian typology. Her many years of volunteer work with children and seniors have afforded her experiences that strengthened her both personally and professionally. She owns and operates her own farm called Phoenix Acres near Hastings, Ontario. Susan is a co-facilitator of the Building Internal Resilience Through Horses Program.

Beverley Clifton, Associate Equine Program Facilitator, The Mane Intent: Bev and I met when we were both completing our FEEL certification at Horse Spirit Connections in 2013 and we’ve been friends since. She moved to the Kawartha Lakes area in 2016 after leaving a long-term career as a high school teacher. In her work with The Mane Intent, Bev is able to combine her life-long work as an educator with equine facilitated learning to benefit others.

Even before her years as a member of the Ontario College of Teachers, Bev has always been a believer and advocate of life-long learning. She owned and operated her own salon for nine years before becoming a teacher to share and teach her trade and experience with young people. Bev developed a safe and humanistic approach to teaching and delivering curriculum; and as an educator, thousands of students have learned and gained life-long skills enabling them to become self-sufficient contributors to society. Throughout her career in education, Bev received awards and recognition and has continued her studies at the University of Waterloo and Brock University. Bev is a co-facilitator of the Building Internal Resilience Through Horses Program. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Bev and am looking forward to continued collaborations as we grow in the future.

Viviane Burmester, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, and Horse Handler, The Mane Intent: Viviane had the courage to reach out to us in 2015 to explore an opportunity to complete a 5 month internship with the business. We are really glad she did as she has been a wonderful asset to our team. Viviane arrived in March, 2017 from Hamburg, Germany and is here for five-months completing an internship that is part of her studies in International Management at the University of Applied Science in Hamburg. She fell in love with Canada a few years ago, when working on a Ranch in Alberta and she is happy that she got the opportunity to return. Horses have been part of her life since she was nine years old and it is a true gift for her to see them as ”healers” in such a wonderful program. It is a true gift to us to have Viviane as part of our team.

The Herd at The Mane Intent: The real magic of this program comes down to the relationships that develop between the participating young women and our herd of horses. This is a shout out to:  Belle, Blue, Maggie, Mystic Mel, Maggie, Misty, Sunny, Samson, Sebastian, Prinz Harry and Leroy Brown. They each bring their gifts and stories to the experience. This is a powerful herd that is teaching us all about love, connection and empowerment.

We’ve demonstrated how well we work together as a team and I am so very proud of us all — horses and humans!

Jennifer Garland and Raven, a natural coach at The Mane Intent

About the Author: Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director of The Mane Intent, offering Health and Wellness Workshops and Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses and humans together to explore new possibilities, getting you out of your comfort zone and giving clarity of voice to your leader within. She has over 25 years of leadership experience in communications, cause-related marketing and change management. As a strategist, facilitator and effectiveness coach, Jennifer has provided counsel and support to senior leaders from all walks of life to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change. She is a ‘socialpreneur’ who values the art of living life fully with intent.



The Mane Intent

June 12, 2017

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