This is one of a series of articles, as part of the feature called "Helpers", which focuses on people and organizations that help make our community better.
This time we focus on Lori Burns and her Horse Ability Equine Assisted Learning facility located at 1798 Highway 17 East in East Ferris.
Lori Burns had always enjoyed horses and riding them. For years she worked in Toronto before the call of the north drew her back this way. Still, she found her work often taking her back to southern Ontario.
Then one day she learned about Equine Assisted Learning - or EAL - and began doing her research.
The facility opened five years ago.
"I had a passion for horses, I understood them, and I have a passion to help people. I knew this could work here for our region," she explains.
She says there is almost constant confusion about what they do. Many people think it's a way to learn to ride the horses, but that's not it. It's actually a form of therapy and provides tools to work through life's challenges.
Burns acknowledges that the best way to grasp what she does is to relate it to something people are already familiar with - therapy dogs.
People know there are therapy dogs for many reasons. Some help the blind, some help the deaf. others can help people with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, autism, emotional issues, and more.
"That's the perfect analogy, if we can get people to make the connection, they begin to understand what we can do. Horses can hear your heartbeat, they can read and adapt to body language. We use the horses to assist people with a variety of issues through interaction, through ways of touching, walking and leading the horse," she adds.
There are different pre-planned and personalized sessions used to help people with everything from a lack of confidence, to trust issues, and more medical and mental health-related issues like autism or post-traumatic stress injuries.
"We use specific activities, toys, and tools to work on specific areas," Burns adds.
Most of the services are often covered by insurance, especially if you're one of the many referrals sent her way from doctors, mental health professionals, occupational therapists, and more. Even if you are seeking services on your own, she can help you explore any financing available.
There are 10 horses at the centre, and generally participants are able to meet them and choose the one they'd like to work with.
To demonstrate the bond and insight therapy horses have with humans, Burns shares an interesting occurrence that happens fairly often.
"One of our horses has been through significant trauma himself. Participants seeking help for that issue will often be drawn to him without knowing why, or the horse may take special notice in them," says Burns.
Like most businesses, the COVID 19 situation pretty much shut her down as of mid-March, and she is just now gearing up to see how and when she can get back to fully servicing clients.
In the meantime, she says the best way to contact her these days is by phone at 705-499-8858.