Hoofbeats Sanctuary is an initiative of Kanyini Connections Ltd, founded in 2009.
Throughout the years, the foundation has looked for the most vulnerable members in our community – those who were falling through the gaps of our existing health and welfare systems.
Initially, we supported children with degenerative conditions whose disabilities didn’t qualify for the funding of equipment that would enable them to live the remainder of their lives comfortably and with dignity. As the NDIS became a reality, we then redirected our focus to supporting children entering Domestic and Family Violence refuges – many of whom arrived only with the clothes they were wearing.
As the work of Rosie Batty shone a spotlight on the gaps in the Domestic Violence sector, funding increased, and refuge services improved for both women and children in their care.
We were then able to shifted our focus to supporting children impacted by trauma more generally. On speaking to refuge staff and mothers, we learned that traditional forms of therapy were often ineffective. Many children found clinical settings confronting and were reluctant to participate in the standard therapeutic process.
And so we turned our attention to identifying more effective intervention. A 2016 review examined journal articles, program evaluations and exploration studies where all participants had experienced trauma as a child. The review found positive aspects when working with horses and concluded that both children and adults gained valuable skills from this type of activity. With those skills, they could overcome the effects of early trauma and stress-related illness.
We spent the next 18 months funding program trials to test the efficacy of various program models. We trialed private sessions, small and large group programs run by qualified instructors – mental health, Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT) and Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) practitioners – and also those without formal qualifications but with significant experience with both horses and mentoring.
We found that every program resulted in significant shifts in how the children felt about themselves and their place in the world.
But with the programs being very expensive (all the facilitators had their own businesses and charged us their usual rates – which are incredibly high because so are their costs; horses are expensive critters to keep) – we knew we needed a different operating model in order to help as many people as possible.
We took the results of our trials to the Sunshine Coast Council who were eager to help us to bring low-cost programs to the community and as it happened, they had the perfect property on which we could base ourselves and which we’ve been leasing since 2019.
And so Hoofbeats Sanctuary was born.
Having our own space, our own horses and an amazing volunteer team has allowed us to develop our own programs and to provide free access to equine therapy programs for financially disadvantaged members of the community that would never be able to afford to pay for programs through private practitioners.
We now offer a variety of trauma-informed programs for women and children.