Premier Wall visits Equine Assisted Learning

Jodi Schellenberg
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Children involved in an equine program at Cartier Farm had the opportunity to hang out with the premier Tuesday.

Premier Brad Wall took the afternoon to visit Cartier Farm’s Equine Assisted Learning program.

The program was developed to help children develop good life skills.

“We actually started in 2004 developing the program with a partnership we had at that time and there were three families involved in the development of the program,” Gayle Cartier said.

Cartier has been teaching riding lessons her entire life and felt the horses had so much to offer people.

“I always knew there was so much to horses and that horses had so much to offer kids and people who rode with me,” she explained. “They levelled the playing field and the kids who rode with me always had good life skills and they turned out to be really great people.

“I thought there has got to be a way we can, instead of only touching maybe one per cent of the entire population, the other 99 per cent who would never have a chance to touch a horse and understand what horses can do for us would be able to benefit from a program,” she added.

The curriculum, approved not only by the school system but also provincially and nationally as well, is a 12-week program usually offered to alternative learning children, youth at risk and treatment programs.

“We actually tried the program with every type of imaginable kids that are in mainstream schools … right from debate teams and 4-H clubs to leadership and team building -- really the sky was the limit,” Cartier said. “There was nowhere this couldn’t go with the curriculum we had developed at the time.

“From there, we added on more exercises -- we had approximately 45 exercises now that are available to us that we have in print,” she added. “About five years ago, we started to run a certification program where other people can come from across Canada and the world to Cartier Farms and be certified to be an equine assisted facilitator.”

Cartier and her partners are very passionate about the program.

“I thought in the beginning that I might get kind of sick of doing it -- not a chance,” Cartier said. “Every dynamic is different, every group of people who come are different, right from Mr. Brad Wall today to the autistic children that we do on Wednesday nights.

“Every group dynamic teaches me something new and the horses bring something to it that I don’t even think we’ve touched the surface of what horses can do,” she added.

The change she sees in the children that go through the program is also amazing.

“There is an extreme amount of change in the children and the life skills that they learn while they are here, right from leadership, because horses are good leaders, to boundary issues, because horses again have boundary issues, trust and respect -- all of the things people need to be successful in life, horses can teach you because they appreciate the same things as people do,” Cartier said.

“So the change in the kids is huge, almost immediate,” she added. “We have people recognizing teachers saying, ‘What are they doing differently?’ because these kids are different in the classroom, from bullies to people who are bullied, those kind of programs work really well.”

The program has also been adapted by a gentleman in Alberta for post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, Cartier said.

Wall was impressed when he was given a taste of the program on Tuesday -- he observed the children and even participated in a drill with them.

“Nadine Wilson had told me about it -- she is the MLA for the area and spoken very highly of it,” Wall said. “It is really hard to grasp what is happening here until you see it. I was lucky enough to see it with some students going through … an afternoon of the program. It is quite remarkable.”

Wilson said she is neighbours with the Cartiers, which is how she heard about the program and really wanted Wall to see the benefits of it.

“From what I’ve seen, it is result-based and from the information I’ve read, it is a learning program which assists troubled youth,” Wilson said. “I think anything we can do to help people overcome obstacles is very valuable.”

The program also caught the attention of the University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina and the University of Calgary, who did a research study on the results-based program.

“We documented everything and the research study from the University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina and Calgary were involved in that,” Cartier said. “That was kind of our final piece in the puzzle, to say this is measureable, we can actually see there is change and it is measureable through the weeks the kids are here.”

After seeing the program and hearing the university researchers information, Wall said he will be taking back some of that information to Regina with him.

“We want to support results-based programs,” Wall said. “Just yesterday in Saskatoon, we announced the Canada’s very first social impact bond, to help young mothers stay united with their children and yet take training.”

The program involved the Credit Union as a private partner and is an innovative way to support a results-based program, Wall said.

“It is meant to help these young moms get their education but obviously not have to chose between education and their kids maybe going into foster care,” he said. “This is a result-based program, obviously it is, and I think it is the kind of thing we should be trying to support where we can.

“We want to see the research and some of the results that the university folks can point to, but it is exactly the kind of programming we need.”

Cartier was excited to see so many people come out who were interested in the program.

“We are just really excited that everybody came out today and that we had a chance to maybe show our program to a wider range of people,” she said. “People love it just as much as we do and see the potential here, right in Saskatchewan, right in Prince Albert.

“There is so much potential and understanding of development of equine programs as well as innovative programs to help children and adults.”

Organizations: University of Calgary, University of Saskatchewan, Credit Union

Geographic location: Canada, Alberta, Saskatoon Saskatchewan Prince Albert

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Recent comments

  • Chuck Nesbitt
    May 17, 2014 - 14:01

    Great article, well written! Wonderful program for the kids who are involved. It appears that Premier Walls enjoyed meeting the children and also the afternoon spent with the folks at Cartier Learning Center.

  • S. busslinger
    May 14, 2014 - 09:39

    Congratulations Cartiers, what a great program!