When Monet Wright caught the eyes of the attention-loving mare at White Dove Stables, it was as though both of them had been transported from their surroundings into a world of complete bliss.
They had no worries, no sadness, no grief. Something that’s been hard to come by for the eight-year-old girl with wavy, white-blonde hair, stylish glasses, and a shy, gap-toothed smile.
Two years ago, Monet’s dad was killed when his semi trailer drove through the guard rails at the Vedder River Bridge on Highway 1 in the middle of the night.
At first the young girl appeared to be dealing with her grief well. But six months after her daddy’s death, the facade crumbled. She started having anxiety attacks, started worrying something bad would also happen to her mom, and regularly came home from school in tears, often set off by playground antics.
“Don’t they know my daddy just died,” she would ask her mom.
Monet was pulled out of Grade 1 a few months before the end of the school year. While her mom, Trina, sent her to a psychologist, it was an eight-week children’s grief group at Chilliwack Hospice that really connected with her.
Being around other kids who had gone through similar traumas, “she wasn’t alone,” said Trina.
Next week, Monet will be participating in her second hospice program, but this time will be slightly different. Instead of counselors helping her work through her grief, it will be horses.
On June 23, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Chilliwack Hospice is hosting its fourth annual Horse Whisperer Grief Camp at White Dove Stables.
Last week, Monet got a preview.
Walking through the horse barn, her neck swiveled and twisted so fast at the sight of the horses. While she could hardly stand to be around the adults circling her, asking question after question, when the horses were around, she was all eyes and ears.
And when finally she was given leave to meet one of them, her face erupted into smiles.
Monet climbed up onto a stool, bringing her head nearly level with the brown beauty, and clucked her tongue to capture the horse’s attention. As soon as she had it, the mare was hers.
Monet pet her muzzle with love, didn’t back away when the horse rubbed her nose to hers, and when their eyes met, it was as though the deep stare lasted for hours – only to be broken by Monet’s giggles at the sight of her horse’s flicking tongue.
When finally she ran back to her mom, she whispered, “I like that one.”
It’s that kind of connection Hospice banks on with its grief camp.
The Horse Whisperer Grief Camp provides experiential therapy that involves interactions between the horse and child.
Because horses are intuitive, nonjudgmental animals that often mirror the behaviours of the humans working with them, studies show they can help build confidence, self-acceptance, trust, emotional awareness, social skills, and encourage communication in those working with them.
This year’s camp will include art, reflective riding, and miniature horse stations.
There is no cost to attend.
For more information, or to register, contact Tammy Genzale at 604-795-4660 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.