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New equine therapy program helps children grieving the loss of a loved one

Connecticut Families

EAST HADDAM – Caring for an animal and giving during a time of loss eases the pain of a grieving child. “I lost my brother in a car accident he was only 19-years-old,” says Hachilah Felton of Southington who has struggled. “I was going through so many emotions at the time. I was crying and screaming, I couldn’t process it all.”

So, the 15-year-old is taking part in an innovative program. The Cove Center for Grieving Children has teamed up with The Grateful Pony Horse Farm in East Haddam to offer equine therapy. It’s part of the Bright Strides Art & Equine therapy program.

“Naturally horses are herd animals, so they’re very attuned to the emotions of the herd and they’re very sensitive to people’s emotions,” explains certified equine therapist Danielle Roberts. “They relate to humans as members of the herd.”

A certified equine therapist works alongside a licensed clinical social worker who asks Felton to describe her emotions. “What does this feel like,” she asks.

“Sensory,” says Felton. “It’s a creative alternative to talk therapy.”

“If you’re going through something traumatic, if you’ve been through something that’s traumatic, it can tap into those feelings of grief and trauma and provide a soothing therapeutic outlet,” says Roberts.

“Grieving is unique to everybody we all grieve differently we all learn to process differently,” says Allison Gamber, Executive Director of The Cove Center for Grieving Children which has seven locations around the state, helping Connecticut Families for 25 years. “The grief will always be there. It comes and goes. It comes in waves. We hope we can teach the children the tools to use throughout their lifetime that will help them through their grief in the long run.”

For Felton, the pain remains but she’s working hard to feel stronger with majestic animals by her side. “Just to feel better and mentally and emotionally connect with the animals, as well. That’s what I’m really hoping for,” she says.

The four week pilot program is currently underway. Organizers plan to tweak this horse therapy class and offer it again.

Contact The Cover Center for Grieving Children for more information.

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