Horse program at Okanagan jail therapeutic

Osoyoos Band members are helping inmates heal by teaching them how to care for horses

Horses are helping inmates at Okanagan Correctional Centre near Oliver overcome mental-health issues and trauma.

The program was being touted by Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie as an opportunity for “healing” before the doors of the OCC even opened and has since become a reality.

RELATED: Osoyoos chief says correctional centre will bring opportunity

In the program, experts from the Osoyoos Indian Band and inmates work together to care for two horses. The inmates are tasked with helping to feed, groom and wash the horses.

Trained horse-handlers from the OIB go to the prison each morning to guide up to six participants in caring for Roanie, a nine-year-old, red-roan, mustang and Gypsy, a golden brown, 18-year-old mustang.

“This horse program is a great example of how a little can go a long way,” said Steve DiCastri, Okanagan Correctional Centre warden. “For under $40,000, we have been able to establish a unique partnership with the Osoyoos Indian Band that we are incredibly grateful for. I believe working with horses has the power to really help some of the men in our care, and I am thrilled to see this program up and running.”

RELATED: Video: Keys handed over for Okanagan Correctional Centre

To prepare for the horses, a team of inmates built a three-stall barn with three distinct corrals. The hope is that one day wild horses can be incorporated in the program as it becomes more established. OIB trainers provide inmates with information on the historical relationship and importance of horses to local First Nations and Indigenous culture.

“To date, inmates who have been involved in the horse program have reported feeling a greater sense of connection and have said taking part in the program has helped them to better appreciate Indigenous culture, the importance of nature and the power of reflection in order to make more positive decisions in the future,” said Robert Stelkia, Osoyoos Indian Band Horse Program leader.

RELATED: VIDEO: Tiny therapeutic horse makes for touching story

Horses have long been used to help enhance emotional, behavioural and cognitive skills for people who have experienced trauma and the hope is this program will provide a calming, holistic environment. The program has been used with inmates with complex needs and helped them learn new skills while spending time with the horses for therapeutic purposes.

“This program represents another great partnership with the Osoyoos Indian Band, on whose land the Okanagan Correctional Centre stands,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Working with horses has been proven to help people overcome mental-health issues, trauma and other challenges, and this program is designed to foster a love of this work that may continue post-release.”

RELATED: Prison an “economic boon” to the South Okanagan

Just Posted

Gold for Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa

Kelsey Serwa wins the gold medal in thrilling fashion in PyeongChang

Penticton judge tosses child custody time-to-trial complaint

Though the judge sympathized with the need to speed up matters, he kept the proceedings on track

Stolen truck, resisting cops in Naramata nets 19 months

Derek John Ledgard, 24, will spend nearly 16 more months in jail after time served

Okanagan real estate agents brace for speculation tax impact

“There’s a real potential for a domino effect to hurt the market in Kelowna.”

Man facing additional drug charges

Targeted enforcement unit arrests man at community centre

B.C. Games open with Olympic touch

The 2018 B.C. Winter Games kicked off in Kamloops

Alberta drops B.C. wine boycott, Notley says Horgan ‘blinked’ on pipeline

B.C. government announces court reference on proposed diluted bitumen restriction

More snow expected on the Coquihalla, Highway 3

Environment Canada says five to 10 centimetres will come down between Friday and Saturday mornings

New charges against ex-Trump campaign associates

More charges were laid Thursday against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and his business associate

UPDATE: Northern Health dealing with lack of 121 registered nurses

Auditor General says officials need to improve internal management, track effect of new policies

Man accused in death of Winnipeg teen Tina Fontaine not guilty

Raymond Cormier was accused of killing Indigenous 15-year-old and dumping her body in the Red River

B.C. businesses say new health tax will raise prices for consumers

Province announced that MSP will be gone by 2020

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Most Read