Jodie Alderton, co-founder of Harmony Hooves Healing Hearts, has found a way to combine her love for animals and her desire to provide healing and comfort to humans and horses alike.
She rescues animals that have been mistreated or are on death row, rehabilitates and trains them, and then often enters them into her Pet Therapy programs. These programs are designed mostly for youths that need support in dealing with anxiety, low self esteem, and social issues, and also for the elderly to provide comfort, affection and company.
Where did Harmony Hooves Healing Hearts originate from?
It was pet therapy that pulled me through my own teenage years growing up, and it’s a remedy I’ve now dedicated my life to providing for others.
Harmony Hooves Healing Hearts was founded in 2008, when I offered free programs to at-risk youth who had lost their way. The program started when funding was cancelled to a local RDA, and I was liaison officer for the special needs program. I was really just trying to mirror my own time as a lost teenager when having all the animals helped with my relationships, my self-esteem and confidence. I offered these programs to schools for free and 10 years down the track, still work with an all-boys school weekly.
You are opening a branch here on the Coffs Coast in the coming months; what made you decide to bring HHHH to this area?
In 2010 Cindy Bickerstaff and I were both interested in horse welfare and, before we knew each other, we were both involved in setting up two well known charities on the Gold Coast (Save a Horse Australia and Healing Hooves inc.). We became friends with a mission to save animals, rescuing horses and other animals. Cindy is now in the Coffs area caring for her father; she is passionate about horses and healing people and decided that Harmony Hooves Healing Hearts was greatly needed in this area.
Can you explain what Equine Therapy is?
Equine Therapy encompasses a range of treatments that involve activities and interactions with horses and other equines to promote physical, emotional and mental health. Horses are a mirror into the soul. They look beyond any disability and don’t judge. Being around horses can help people that have difficulty dealing with anxiety, particularly people who have anxiety related to the stigma that goes along with being viewed as different. Teen clients feel safe and gain confidence, and when given the opportunity to introduce a rescued mini to the elderly, they feel proud. Equine Therapy is also just about being in each other’s company and enjoying that energetic feeling that travels between horse and client.
Could you tell us about some of the sorts of people who participate in the Equine Therapy programs?
Our programs are focused on youth, with value based programs such as Trust, Respect, Responsibility. They are offered an eight week program, then invited to be part of the team and visit the elderly in nursing homes, creating love, joy and a sense of belonging and purpose. Equine Therapy is also just sitting with a palliative care patient or at mental health facilities, just being. I don’t like the word “therapy”, as I find it too clinical, and with youth it has a stigma.
The nursing homes are an experience; we create a magical energy for the elderly when we visit their rooms.
What benefits do you see these clients take away from spending time with your horses?
Like animals, we are all able to energetically feel love and respect. At HHHH we endeavour to create a safe environment for human and horse to feel that.
We have had great success rates with youth who were self-harming and that had low self-esteem. Sometimes it just takes that one person to believe in them for them to believe in themselves. Some benefits for the elderly include: increased wellbeing, feelings of euphoria, lowered blood pressure, reminiscing memories of past pets, reminiscing childhood happiness, calmness, supports social isolation and fills a loneliness void, changes their environment for a short time.
The horses at HHHH are animals that have been rescued and rehabilitated. Do all your horses then become part of the therapy program, or do you also re-home some of them?
A therapy pony has hours of training and desensitising; they have to be 100 percent safe. If they are not suited, we will find forever homes for them instead.
Where do most of the horses come from, and why are they usually in need of rescue?
Most ponies or horses that are rescued we either hear about by word of mouth or we find at monthly horse sales; a huge percentage are animals that are going to slaughter because of the effects of drought.
Who trains and looks after the horses?
The horses are trained and desensitised by me and Cindy.
How can people get involved with Harmony Hooves Healing Hearts?
We have a beautiful blind boy we are doing a Go Fund Me campaign for at the moment. He has been saved from neglect, so will take a lot of work to gain trust and love with humans. Or, some may wish to volunteer to support the visits into the nursing homes.
You can contact Jodie – 0418 147 399