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Horse Whisperer Making a Difference

The Local By Anthony Sawrey

HUMANS and horses as a species have been intertwined for nearly 6000 years and it has been for the most part, a relationship built on necessity. This working arrangement dominated right up until the last hundred years when of course, machines and internal combustion engines replaced them.

But this was not the end of the horse as far as our relationship with them was concerned. They remain as our companions in sports, recreation and in recent decades, as participants in the practice of equine physiotherapy. Dean Mighell, founder and director of the fundraising charity The Path of The Horse is a practitioner of this form of treatment based in the Wombat State Forest near Trentham. The property is known as the John Monash Equine Therapy Centre.

After working in the labour movement for 25 years I decided to get away from the conflict and politics and get some peace in my life. at the same time I became interested in the treatment of US military veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder using horses. I thought "Wow, I have a lot of experience with horses and I've got a beautiful place in Trentham. I'll do something like that here."

Dean began his own journey on the path of the horse in his early 20s. And over the years he continued to develop his skills working on weekend trail rides through the Barmah Forest. But he realised that he did not know enough people with mental health issues and would have to learn more about the profession; especially if he wanted to include horses.

Then while on a trail ride, someone mentioned Meg Kirby of the Equine Physiotherapy Institute, based at Mt Prospect near Daylesford. He got in contact and soon completed it Equine Assisted Learning Practitioner program. He has also completed an Advanced Trauma Training course and continues to study at the Gestalt Institute of Australia. By 2015, Dean began developing his property with facilities for conducting treatment sessions and gradually acquired a motley collection of horses and ponies who love nothing more than to say hello, make friends, get pats and help people heal.

"My herd ranges in age from two to 20. Montana is the youngest and Rocky is the oldest," says Dean, "and they are trained specifically for their role as therapy horses. Most of the work we do is ground work and very gently but the training is really important because safety is paramount physically and mentally for both horse and person. However, I still want my hor

ses to be an inquisitive bunch. They are all very individual and very curious about new people, new opportunities."


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