Pet therapy!

Duke loves hugs and makes sure children visiting his farm get plenty of them. The gentle animals may be large, but they provide a quiet and nurturing experience for people who come to visit them.

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

Horses have an incredible ability to pick up on how a human is feeling, often mirroring their emotions, and even matching the heart rate of the person riding them.
Their uncanny connection to humans can also be used as a tool to help individuals overcome debilitating problems that can often be a serious barrier for the person in everyday life.
Healing Reins, an Equine Assisted Learning facility north of Donnelly, provides a method for people to find personal growth and overcome issues that can include confidence issues, low self esteem, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, addiction, depression, and many others.
Owner Nancy Carter says horses have the ability to sense people’s feelings like trust, fear, anger, self-doubt and anxieties.
“A lot of people assume that I train my horses to act in the manner that they do when our clients arrive, but there is no training involved,” she says.
“Horses are naturally intuitive and can sense one’s fears, strengths, or weaknesses, they act as a mirror and project that back through their behaviour toward us,” she adds. “I am trained to read the body language of the horse and help guide my clients, through conversations around what the horse is telling you.”
Carter says she recommends clients commit to six sessions with her, as often it requires approximately that much time for people to become more self aware, to clear their heads and be able to make positive and sound choices. After the six sessions, Carter says she and the client will re-evaluate the progress they’ve made and decide how to move forward.
“Horses bring a natural calming effect to our session and clients,” she explains. “They have the ability to read us, feel us and share with us, sometimes things we never even considered were holding us back, but soon find out that maybe that one thing was all it ever was.”
Carter has five equines at Healing Reins to help guide her clients. She says they currently have space for new clients and is happy to accommodate newcomers to the program.
A typical session will run 60 minutes, which Carter feels is the magic number for both clients and horses.
“Often times I will get referrals from therapists or counsellors in our region that have a client they have been working with but cannot get through to that individual,” she says. “For what reasons I am uncertain, I do not question, but this is why animals work.”
She says horses allow an individual to feel safe, with no judgment. The horse carries no charts or papers in front of them, so they are not intimidating or clinical.
“Listening and or feeling the breath of one of our equines on their skin is serene,” she says. “They are allowed to learn and adapt in their own way. I may present them a scenario, one they may stumble across in their own life, and now they have to work hand-in-hand with a 1,200 lb animal and figure out how to overcome the obstacle together.”
Carter says she has always been a horse enthusiast and always had horses on the farm. She says she always knew they had a special gift to heal, leading her to become certified in 2012 through EAL Canada as an EAL facilitator and EAPD coach.
She hopes people will reach out if they’re struggling to find peace in a situation in their lives, hoping her horses can help them overcome the battle they face.
If you would like more information on Healing Reins or would like to set up an appointment with Carter, you can find her on Facebook at or by her website

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