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 are 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.
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 the women and children in their care. We were then able to shift 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 interventions. A scientific review that examined journal articles, program evaluations and exploration studies (where all participants had experienced trauma as a child) found positive aspects when working with horses and concluded that both children and adults gained valuable skills from this type of activity, and that 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 a range of differently qualified instructors – mental health professionals, Equine-Assisted Therapy and Equine-Assisted Learning practitioners – and also those without formal qualifications but with significant experience with both horses and mentoring. We learnt what worked and what didn’t work – in terms of outcomes for clients, and what we were comfortable with and not comfortable with – in relation to horse welfare practices.
We took the results of our trials to the Sunshine Coast Council seeking support to bring low-cost programs to the community and, as it happened, they had the perfect property on which we could base ourselves. And so Hoofbeats Sanctuary was born in 2019 and Kanyini Connections turned its focus solely to providing mental health support.
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 the financially disadvantaged members of the community that would never be able to afford to pay for programs through private practitioners.
We’ve been consistently expanding our program offerings ever since and now offer a variety of evidence-based, trauma-informed programs for women and girls.