Written by: Heather Clemenceau
For hundreds of years, the horse has been recognized as one of nature’s strongest and most noble animals. Throughout history, horses have carried generals across miles of war zone, led armies into countless battles, and survived with their riders against unbeatable odds. Although modern technology removed the need for horses to go into battle, some horses have found other jobs in the barn rather than on the battlefield. Many horses have a personality that inspires solace. They are large flight animals but they choose to stand beside us. When you are making an internal life transition, being in the presence of horses can be an incentive to embrace change.
Why do some bounce back from major and minor losses more quickly than others? One of the main factors in building resilience is to connect with a purpose that is larger than you yourself. Having a goal beyond the present, often one such as starting a foundation or taking care of an animal, can be the impetus that helps one grow in resiliency.
Jennifer Cutting started Justice Love ‘n Care Animal Rescue, in June 2012, after realizing that most horses at a local auction went to slaughter rather than finding homes. Since then, 31 horses, 2 donkeys, a sheep, a duck, and a pot bellied pig have come to JLC, have been rehabilitated, and most rehomed. JLC volunteers include children, youth, and adults, people from very diverse backgrounds and experiences. There are no paid staff, and everyone donates their time and resources.
Jennifer and the rescue are enrolled in the Aviva Community Fund program, as they are now ready to move onto their next project - the W.I.N.N.E.R. Program for at-risk youth, ages 12-25. Securing funds via the Aviva program will mean that the rescue can hire two full-time staff. Their vision is to offer an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning Program (EAGALA), which also includes programs for art and nature, which encourage creativity, environmental stewardship, and an appreciation for life and nature. Equine assisted learning (EAL) takes place from the ground, with no riding involved. Youth would be encouraged by an EAL leader, through a series of activities with the greatest teacher, their horse. The entire program promotes self- awareness, problem solving skills, empathy, compassion, and an awareness of body language, along with many other characteristics. The EAGALA program (along with a mental health professional and equine specialist) is designed to address specific goals for the participants, so that youth will have key “take-away” experiences that can help them to make lifelong changes, all while adhering to a specific code of ethics.
Jennifer plans to become a certified instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH, Int.) to teach at-risk youth how to interact with horses in unmounted activities. In addition, Jennifer’s husband Trevor is a natural environment technician who has training for wilderness life skills, plant and tree identification, wildlife observation, as well as surveying and survival skills.
“I have worked with youth in group homes, in a youth detention centre, as well as with women in federal prison,” says Jennifer, who currently works as a community facilitator with people who have acquired brain injuries. While volunteering at the prison, Jennifer was part of a healing circle, as well as the community integration team with the Canadian Mental Health Association. She developed a group that was approved by Corrections Canada called LAM – “Looking After Me.” LAM’s focus included establishing healthy relationships, reaching one’s dreams with a realistic plan with small steps, finding supports, budgeting, volunteering and giving back to the community, understanding triggers for different feelings and behaviours, and maintaining physical health via nutrition and exercise.
The milestones have not stopped.
Jennifer also wants to create awareness of the horrific horse slaughter industry – a morass of cruelty and corruption – where animals that are unfit for human consumption and never designed to be part of the food chain are slaughtered mostly for export from Canada. To that end, she diligently attended the Ontario Livestock Exchange auctions (OLEX) in Waterloo, Ontario most weeks for several months and began gathering statistics that showed who was buying these horses and other animals, and what breeds were either being rehomed or sold to kill buyers and sent to slaughter. Minis, standardbreds, drafts, arabs, quarter horses, haflingers , fjords, paints, donkeys, llamas and alpacas are all sold at OLEX – an auction where many weanlings and yearlings are also sold and, according to her stats, roughly 50-80% of all the equines go to slaughter. Sadly, Jenn has made note of quite a few “meat only” horses, including mares heavy in foal. Baby colts are often sold for $5 to kill buyers, who sell them to slaughterhouses. She has become well known for these very-detailed statistics that also capture the average prices for horses that are sold every week.
Jennifer is in the process of applying for her non-profit status, and once that has been approved, she will apply for charitable status – part of the requirements for registering as a charity with the Canada Revenue Agency requires the creation of Guiding Principles:
Our W.I.N.N.E.R. program for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning shall be guided by our desire to instill confidence in clients, while ensuring safety, by maintaining the highest standards of ethics and integrity. We will honour the dignity of the client in a respectful manner, always preserving their privacy and confidentiality. We will constantly evaluate our program and the progress of our clients and will refer them to other professional services if and when this is in the best interest of the participant. The W.I.N.N.E.R. program will be a place where all views, ideas, and opinions shall be respected. We will promote the development of programs that serve challenged persons and educate the public about equines. We will endeavour to facilitate the re-homing of equines that would otherwise be abused, neglected, or sold to meat dealers. We will safely match both program participants with horses as well as screen and match foster homes and adopters when considering homes for the horses. We shall adhere to all provincial and federal laws and will always strive to improve our professional strengths.
In some ways you could say that Jennifer’s program to help youth and horses was made easier by the difficult road to get there. Jennifer felt helpless throughout her grade school and high school education as a result of being bullied for years until she finally moved away. Today, she advocates that bullying be addressed in schools or workplaces, and on the internet. Some of her worst bullying experiences happened in places where children and young adults are supposed to be protected. “That is part of the reason I went into Social Services – to help people find empowerment and to better themselves regardless of obstacles or the actions of others. And that’s why I really want to start the W.I.N.N.E.R. Program for At-Risk Youth. “
Jennifer has also had some recent setbacks while promoting the Aviva Community Fund and her rescue, when Facebook deleted several of the groups she was using for networking – completely wiping out her base of friends and associates who were all voting for the rescue. Jennifer is, however, well practiced at prioritizing stressors in her life – while she is competing for the AVIVA Community Fund, she is also in the midst of a move.
Through the soft nicker of a horse,at-risk youth can find healing at the barn. Although the horses can offer us immeasurable therapeutic benefits, programs wouldn’t survive without the dedication and support of the volunteers at JLC, who are gratefully acknowledged.
Competition for the Aviva Community Fund is fierce. Please help this rescue by voting everyday through to November 4th.