Horse As Healer: Treating Volatile Solvent Abuse

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FUNDING:
Office of the Research Chair in Substance Abuse, University of Saskatchewan, funded by a grant from the Ministry of Health
Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research

PARTNERS:
Nimkee NupiGawagan Healing Centre, University of Regina (Faculty of Social Work), Keystone Equine Centre, Lambton Equine Assisted Learning Centre, University of Calgary (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine), University of Regina (Faculty of Social Work), White Buffalo Youth Inhalant Treatment Centre, Cartier Stables (Cartier Farms), Youth Solvent Addiction Committee, National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

AIMS:
Project I partnered with the Nimkee NupiGawagan Healing Centre (NNHC), in Muncey, Ontario – which provides residential treatment to First Nations and Inuit youth who abuse solvents – and both the Keystone Equine Centre and the Lambton Equine Assisted Learning Centre.  This study had a dual focus: (a) to document the general experiences and lessons learned of First Nations and Inuit youth attending NNHC’s residential treatment centre with the Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) programs, and (b) to document the connection between the EAL programs and NNHC’s culture-based model of healing (i.e. resiliency). A triangulation of qualitative methods to address these two areas were undertaken: interviews with program participants, staff interviews, review of EAL facilitator and NNHC staff notes, youth journaling following EAL participation, and researcher observation at the EAL program. We concluded that youths’ healing was aided through the availability of a culturally-relevant space; from  within an  Aboriginal worldview this understanding of space is central to individual and communal well-being. This was conveyed in three key themes that emerged from the data: spiritual exchange, complementary communication, and authentic occurrence.

Project II helped to fill the serious gap in research evidence in the equine guided interventions field. Our multi-disciplinary, community-based, exploratory research team adopted a holistic, culturally-informed framework to examine the role of Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) in youths’ solvent abuse treatment, behavioural change, and well-being. Applying a case study design, the question this exploratory study ses out to examine is: Does EAL contribute to the residential treatment and the bio-psycho-social-spiritual well-being of First Nations youth who abuse solvents, and if yes, how?  A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by all parties involved in the project in June, 2010. This was followed by a traditional cultural horse dance to honour the project in September of the same year, and at the same time of year in the three years following. We concluded that participation in the EAL program contributes in multiple ways to the wellbeing of First Nations youth who misuse volatile substances & that this is achieved through a combination of the EAL horses, facilitators and program content. The youths’ experiences of the EAL program positively impacted their physical, mental/emotional, social, spiritual and cultural wellbeing, and the horse was a key helper to all of this.

Elder Gladys Wapass Greyeyes and Ernive Sauve from the White Buffalo Youth Inhalant Treatment Centre
at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding.

 

Horse Dance 2013 Group

 U of S researchers arriving for the fourth traditional ceremonial horse dance at
Sturgeon Lake First Nations in June, 2013.                                                    

 

One Arrow Cultural Workshop 2013

                  Our Research Team attending the One Arrow Equestrian Centre program to begin a new partnership.

 

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Members of our team also attended the Twisted Wire Equine program in 2013 to continue its learning!

 

OUTCOMES:

Artistic expression painting of the project findings. Developed in partnership with the Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Program (painter Andy Zimmerman &  graphic artist April Doepker).

Helping Horse Poster
Project Team. 2013. One Page Plain Language Research Summary. The Helping Horse: How Equine Assisted Learning Contributes to the Wellbeing of First Nations Youth in Treatment for Volatile Substance Misuse. Calgary: University of Calgary.

Project Team. Full Report. 2013. The Helping Horse: How Equine Assisted Learning Contributes to the Wellbeing of First Nations Youth in Treatment for Volatile Substance Misuse. Calgary: University of Calgary. pp. 79.

Project Team. Shortened Policy Report. 2013. The  Helping Horse: How Equine Assisted Learning Contributes to the Wellbeing of First Nations Youth in Treatment for Volatile Substance Misuse. Calgary: University of Calgary. pp. 25.
Shortened Policy Report Appendix. Shortened Policy Report Appendix.

Project Team. Executive Summary Poster. 2013. “The Helping Horse: How Equine Assisted Learning Contributes to the Wellbeing of First nations Youth in Treatment for Volatile Substance Misuse.” Calgary: University of Calgary. pp. 1.

S. Spence and Research Team. 2013. “Horse as Healer: Treating Volatile Solvent Abuse through Equine Assisted Learning”. U of S Engaged Scholar Day, Saskatoon, SK.. Faculty Supervisor. Prize acknowledgement.

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Nicki Kirlin, Dr. Colleen Dell, Kate Dunn at Master of Public Student Health Practicum Poster Fair

K. Dunn. 2013. The Helping Horse. Master of Public Student Health Practicum Poster Fair, University of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon, SK. First prize.

N. Kirlin. 2013. Research Chair in Substance Abuse. Master of Public Student Health Practicum Poster Fair, University of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon, SK.

Colleen Dell, Ernie Sauve, Gail Cartier, Loni Longclaws & Janice Boucher presenting
at the 2012 Saskatchewan Inhalant Conference.

J.  Boucher, G. Cartier, L. Longclaws, E. Sauve, C. Dell. 2012. “Equine Assisted Learning Research Project”. Saskatchewan Inhalant Conference. Saskatoon, SK.

C. Dell and D. Chalmers. 2011. “Equine-Assisted Therapy as an Adjunct to Solvent Abuse Treatment for First Nations Youth: A Key Consideration for Building an Empirical Knowledge Base”. Native Studies Review. Special invitation. 20(1), 59-87.

C. Dell, D. Chalmers, N. Bresette, S. Swain, D. Rankin, C. Hopkins. 2011. “Creating Healing Spaces: The Experiences of First Nations and Inuit Youth with Equine-Assisted Learning”. Child and Youth Care Forum. 40(2), 319-336. DOI 10.1007/s10566-011-9140-z

L. Longclaws and C. Dell. 2011. “Healing with Horses: Aboriginal Youth in Residential Treatment for Solvent Abuse”. Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre Inaugural Conference, Saskatoon, SK.

E. Sauve and C. Dell. 2011. “Horse as Healer: Applying Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) to Uncover and Strengthen the Spirit of First Nations Youth Who Abuse Solvents”. Healing Our Spirit Worldwide, the 6th Gathering, Honolulu, HI.  Available here.

C. Dell and D. Chalmers.  “Equine Assisted Therapy”. Centre for Integrative Medicine Seminar, University of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon, SK.

C. Dell, D. Chalmers, D. Dell, E. Sauve, T. MacKinnon. 2008. “Horse as Healer: Applying Equine Assisted Learning to Uncover and Strengthen the Spirit of First Nations Youth Who Abuse Solvents”. Pimitisiwin: A Journal of Indigenous and Aboriginal Community Health. 6(10), pp. 81-106.

D. Chalmers, C. Dell, E. Sauve. 2008. “Horse as Healer: Applying Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) to Uncover and Strengthen the Spirit of First Nations Youth Who Abuse Solvents”. New Directions in Population Health Research: Linking Theory, Ethics and Practice, Regina, SK.

C. Dell, E. Sauve, D. Chalmers, D. Dell, T. MacKinnon. 2008. “Horse as Healer: Applying Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) to Uncover and Strengthen the Spirit of First Nations Youth Who Abuse Solvents“.  First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Montreal, QC.

C. Dell, E. Sauve, D. Chalmers, D. Dell, T. MacKinnon. 2008. “Horse as Healer: An Examination of Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) in the Healing of First Nations Youth from SolventAbuse”. National Institute on Drug Abuse International Program, San Juan, Peurto Rico.

C. Dell, E. Sauve, D. Chalmers, D. Dell, T. MacKinnon. 2008. “Horse as Healer: An Examination of Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) in the Healing of First Nations Youth from SolventAbuse”. World Psychiatric Association, Saskatoon, SK.


MEDIA:

Premier Wall visits Equine Assisted Learning
– Prince albert Daily Herald, May 7, 2014

Healing with the Horse
– Indigenous Circle, CTV, May 10, 2014

– Taping, APTN, Caos & Courage program, May 2, 2014

Horse as Healer
– CTV News, May 1, 2014

Horses Can Make Difference in Addictions Therapy: The Research Story
– Focus Saskatchewan, December 21, 2013

Horses Can Make Difference in Addictions Therapy 
– Global News Saskatchewan, December 20, 2013

Equine Therapy as an Adjunct Program Component Continues to Grow
– YSAC Update, November 2013

How Horse Therapy can Help Those Struggling with Addiction
– CTV Morning Show Regina, December 4, 2013 – Darlene Chalmers

The Helping Horse
Radio Interview Missinipi Broadcasing Corporation (MBC), November 6, 2013 – Darlene Chalmers with David Smith

Horses Help First Nations Youth in Treatment for Solvent Abuse
University of Regina News Release, November 4, 2013

The Helping Horse
– Indigenous Circle CTV, Forthcoming

Study to Examine the Benefit of Horse Therapy with Youth Solvent Abusers 
– Alberta Sweetgrass, September, 2010

Partnership Developed to Study Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)
– Cartier Equine Learning Centre News Release, August  2010

Equine Therapy Harnesses the Power of Horses
– Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CrossCurrents, Fall 2009


POST-DOCTORAL FELLOW:
From January 2011 – 2013, Dr. Randy Duncan held a Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) Post-Doctoral Fellowship with Dr. Colleen Anne Dell to construct and validate a culturally competent instrument among First Nations youth who abuse solvents as a measure of client change (improved behavioural functioning and well-being) in Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) programs. More information is available here. This work has expanded beyond the solvent abuse realm to First Nations Youth in general; the instrument is being pilot tested with youth who attend the I.D.E.A.L. program at One Arrow First Nation Equestrian Centre. The findings are in the process of being analyzed.

R. Duncan (2010). Developing and Testing a Culturally Competent Measure of the Effectiveness of Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) Programs with First Nations Youth Why Abuse Solvents.  SHRF Awards evening.

Drawing upon this work, since the completion of the fellowship, Dr. Duncan has been working with CanPraxis to evaluate the effectiveness of an equine-assisted psychotherapy intervention to support the recovery of veterans in Canada from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Can Praxis: A Model of Equine Assisted Learning for PTSD
-Canadian Military Journal, April, 2014

Equine Therapy as an Adjunct Program Component Continues to Grow
– YSAC Update, November 2013

Horses as Healers for Veterans
-Canadian Medical Association Journal, October 1, 2013

Horses Offer Hope for Sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress
– Calgary Herald, May 13, 2013

  Dr. Randy Duncan and Dominique Dryka from Cartier Farms participating in an EAL exercise.