Horsing around for better health

Written by Kerrie Alexander

When you have a flick through the Stable Mind Equine Assisted Therapy photos posted on Facebook you instantly understand the concept of Jock Lindsay’s not-for-profit charity.

There is pure joy on the faces of the veterans, frontline responders, and clients of all the disability services that have visited his Burrum Heads property in the past 12 months to meet the stars of the show.

You can’t help but beam when you meet Diego and Quavo the loveable donkeys, Mack, and Ringer the very handsome Clydesdales and Tiger, the 22-year-old “bomb proof” thoroughbred who are all Jock’s faithful and trusted therapy animals.

You see, horses – and animals in general – help put people at ease and support them to feel accepted, because they’re unbiased and non-judgmental, responding only to people’s behaviour and emotions.

Ringer is a gentle giant; Mac is the new guy that just loves to be in the limelight and Tiger is a retired racehorse who Jock describes as an “absolute gentleman”.

Simply leading, grooming, patting, cuddling, and talking to the horses has been successfully used in the treatment of depression, anxiety and in Jock’s case, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for many years and is strongly supported by psychiatrists and psychologist alike.

It’s the reason Jock started this incredibly unique charity, where people from all walks of life visit the acreage property and the animals to better their mental health.

The Scottish-born horse enthusiast is an ex-veteran of the special forces having served as a Clearance Diver for six years with the British Navy and six years with the Royal Australian Navy.

Consequently, he was diagnosed with PTSD three years ago but now realises he has struggled with the disorder for many years.

The place he feels most at ease is beside his horses, which is why his psychologist pushed him to get the charity off the ground.

Having a firsthand experience on just how much these beautiful animals can turn a person’s life around gave Jock and his wife Melissa all the encouragement they needed to turn that dream into a reality.

With the help of local horse trainer Margot Jensen, the horses that were once pets are now four-legged therapists and the therapy donkeys were welcomed into the family just recently.

“If you have PTSD, anxiety or problems with your mental health, all that goes away instantly when you meet the animals,” Jock said.

“I know the importance of it, and I know the enjoyment others get out of being with the horses and the donkeys.

“We started a year ago in June to test the water to see if there was a need in this region and it’s really been successful, especially with family groups, disability groups and individuals.

“We bring them animals to them, we go for a walk around the house, we groom them.

“I get a lot of children visit who are autistic or have down syndrome and I get so much joy from having them on my property.

“If they are happy, they show it, and their smiles are just so infectious.

“There’s no criticism and a lot of the time they will applaud as they are driving away … they are a tremendous group of kids.”

Jock said the veterans a little bit harder to convince because they don’t realize they could benefit from the service until they get there.

One successful case that stuck with Jock was meeting a young veteran who had been discharged from Afghanistan after being injured and suffered from chronic PTSD.

“He came out with full scepticism and didn’t believe that equine therapy was going to assist him.
“I went and got Ringer for him and found a quite spot in the shade and he gave him a brush, went for a walk, and had a chat.

“He (veteran) went into a bad head space and that horse turned around – he was at his shoulder at the time – but he turned around and put his head on his shoulder until he was out of that headspace.
“After that, he said to book him in every Friday.

“That’s a huge reward for me when you get a reaction like that from veterans.”

As the concept is growing so is the charity. Jock now has a float which has enabled him and the team to take the charity mobile.

This means that the team can be booked to attend individuals’ homes, schools, aged care facilities and disability services.

“If you have a driveway and a gate that the horses can fit through, then we can come to you.”

The Hervey Bay RSL Community Grants Program and the Hervey Bay RSL Sub-Branch are proud to support this fantastic initiative by sponsorship of $500 each, per month, to the charity.

The $1000 each month goes towards Hendra vaccinations and vet bills, feed, worming, farrier, and other associated costs.

“This support is just phenomenal,” Jock said.

“I would be lost without it.”

For prices or to find out more visit the Stable Mind Equine Assisted Therapy Facebook page, email ianlindsey@gmail.com or phone 0400 939 709.