What if a horse could help the doctors, nurses and other front-line healthcare workers, struggling under the daily stress of providing care during a global pandemic? That’s what Emily Aho asked, after her own father died of COVID-19 earlier this year.
A retired registered nurse, certified Equine Assisted Life Skills facilitator, and founder of the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center, Emily realized that she was uniquely positioned to help these hardworking heroes.
“I had the ponies, and as the child of a COVID victim and former RN, I could really relate,” Emily explains. With her mission in hand, she partnered with True Hope Therapeutic Horsemanship to bring the one-of-a-kind program to life.
Emily is quick to point out that it’s the critically endangered Newfoundland ponies that are the heart of the program, serving as four-legged therapists for those in need. “Who wouldn’t enjoy having a fuzzy sweet pony as their teacher, teammate and life coach?” she asks.
Who indeed! Under Emily’s watchful eye, healthcare workers partner with the horses to complete a series of objective-based exercises, an experience participants’ find empowering, relaxing and fun. “Self-care is often overlooked in healthcare, because we’re so focused on taking care of others,” admits Cathy T., a recent Heal for Heroes participant. “Since attending this program, I’m taking more time to stay in the moment and enjoy the little things, instead of going until I just can’t go anymore.”
“It’s hard for me to put into words how much Heal the Heroes helped me during this difficult time,” she continues, “but I will never forget this experience.”