New Okanagan prison horse care program provides calming influence on inmates | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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New Okanagan prison horse care program provides calming influence on inmates

The Okanagan Correctional Centre recently began a unique new program teaching inmates how to care for horses in conjunction with the Osoyoos Indian Band.

OLIVER - A new program for inmates at the Okanagan Correctional Centre is helping inmates cope while teaching skills they can apply once they return to the workplace.

The prison has partnered with members of the Osoyoos Indian Band to provide trained handlers each morning to guide up to six inmates in the care, feeding, grooming and washing of two horses, nine-year-old Roanie, and 18-year-old Gypsy, according to a B.C. government media release.

The program is designed to teach inmates job skills they can use once released from custody. As they learn how to care for large animals, they also learn something about committing to a daily routine and how to be accountable.

“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,” Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnsworth says in the release, calling the program a great partnership with the Osoyoos Indian Band.

Several inmates with more complex needs were invited recently to spend time with the horses for therapeutic purposes, as the animals have been used in the past to provide a calming and holistic environment for those who have experienced trauma.

Osoyoos Indian Band horse program leader Robert Stelkia says inmates who have participated in the program say they developed a greater sense of connection with nature, in addition to better appreciating the Indigenous culture.

Warden Steve DiCastri says the program’s $40,000 cost is an example of how a little can go a long way.

“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,” he says.

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