In central British Columbia, a First Nation is turning to horses to help its population heal from trauma. The program that will include riding and horse care seeks to teach “life skills, mentorship, Indigenous teachings and qualified professional support to address the roots of trauma through the power of healing with land and horses.”

Horses as a form of psychotherapy is well documented and has been proven to heal many people who suffer from different types of trauma, including PTSD, eating disorders, anxiety, and depression, among many other issues.

The Tl’etinqox First Nation, west of Williams Lake in the Chilcotin area, have been given $1.9 million in federal government funding, plus additional funds from the provincial government, to buy land and build an equine facility. “As original inhabitants of this vast and beautiful territory encompassing high mountain plateaus, forests, grasslands, lakes and desert, the Tsilhqot’in people have been self-reliant and well provided for through their own ingenuity and relationship with the land and with nature,” explains project manager Dawn Bursey, to the Prince George Citizen. “This project aims to both reflect and expand on these strengths.”

While the building continues – it began in 2018 – the residents have already been involved in after-school riding, gymkhanas and cultural rides, among other activities and workshops. According to psychotherapist Duey Freeman, who is quoted in the same news report, “Horses are embodied and energetically connected. They encourage congruence of body and mind, trust and communication.”

There was no indication what types of horses are involved in the Tl’etinqox First Nation project. That part of the province is famous for its population of wild horses, where approximately 1,000 animals roam the land. Interestingly, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun, these horses are not genetically linked to the same animals that the Spanish introduced to North America during the conquest in the early 1500s as first thought. Rather, they appear to be related to the Canadian horse (which Parliament officially recognized in 2002), which came from France as well as horses from Siberia.

The Tl’etinqox First Nation project is expected to be finished by the fall of 2021.