One of the young campers at Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre gets ready to climb onto her horse.

PORT HOOD: Nadine Bollig, the driving force behind Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre, is now certified to offer services intended to help people struggling with various issues ranging from eating disorders to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“I’m now completely certificated as an Equine Assisted Learning [EAL] coach, as well as an Equine Assisted Personal Development [EAPD] facilitator, through Equine Assisted Learning Canada,” she said, noting that Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre is the first facility in Cape Breton to offer such services.

“EAL and EAPD are partnerships with horses that will help you to find solutions to challenges in your life.

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“This includes a wide variety of issues such as eating disorders, grief and loss, depression, drug addiction, family discord, PTSD, teens with at risk behaviour, and so on.”

Photo by Grant McDaniel
Nadine Bollig of Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre is seen here with two of her oldest friends, Sassy (left) and Bart.

EAL provides opportunities for goal setting, task focus and accomplishment, as well as personal growth. The program will be launched this fall at the Port Hood-based facility.

Bollig took her certification course in Guysborough, traveling there for a full week from Port Hood. The instruction was a combination of classroom work and hands-on interaction with the horses. Bollig has been working with the animals for a long time, but she reports the course opened her eyes to what interacting with horses can do for certain people.

“A lot of people might ask how do horses do all of that and more? Well, for starters, horses are prey animals which make them acutely sensitive and aware to everything in their surroundings.

“Because of their nature, they will give immediate feedback which thus reflects back to us their sense of who we are and what we are presenting, whether positive or negative. Horses can teach us trust, respect, personal control, impact, boundaries, patience and so much more.

“Anyone interested in learning more about it or what we do, the simplest way of explaining it is to do a session, I will have an exercise set up for them to go through.”

Photo by Grant McDaniel
The Dunmore Road facility is adding a new stable. Before long, the horses houses at Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre will have a new roof to keep them dry.

Generally speaking, sessions will run for an hour to an hour-and-a-half. They can accommodate one person or a group of people.

Some exercises can take multiple sessions to complete, while other exercises can be wrapped up in a single session. Exercises can be done on either horseback or the ground depending on one’s comfort level. Anyone can try EAL regardless their level of experience around horses.

“Horses have so much that they can give to us and they can help us through so many tough times in our lives,” Bollig said.

“We at Reaching Strides look forward to providing our area with these wonderful programs alongside our riding school and look forward to many years of helping people reach their goals.”

Photo by Grant McDaniel Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre was a busy spot on July 19 as the final day of the facility’s three-day camp was finishing up. The centre has another camp coming up on August 8-11.

Bollig invited The Reporter to stop by her base of operations on Dunmore Road last Wednesday. It was the last day of her annual July camp, and the facility was swarming with young folks learning how to handle themselves with horses.

The camp ran for three days and had dozens of riders and councillors on the scene. For those who might have missed it, a second camp will take place from August 8 to 11.

“It was three days of horsy fun where they come and ride several times a day, doing fun things and everything to do with the horses,” she said. “They learn everything there is to learn about the horses, basically. Feeding, saddling, brushing – everything.”

The instructor also put a roof over the campers heads for the three days. Reaching Strides is adjacent to her new home, which proved to be a major boon in terms of accommodating the campers.

“Luckily for us, we have a brand new basement,” she said, laughing. “That makes a huge difference.”

The camp is just one of the activities taking place at the centre, which is located next to the TransCanada Trail. Bollig takes advantage of that by offering trail riding along with her other activities.

“We do riding lessons, camps, clinics where we bring in other people besides myself,” she said. “We teach other aspects of horseback riding, and this weekend we have a lady coming in to do a liberty clinic, which is teaching your horse manners, tricks, and that kind of thing. We train horses, we board horses.

“We have kids that compete all through the province. Some do local shows, some do provincial shows, and we also have kids who compete at the national level.

“It’s a lot of work, especially in the summer time. It slows down a bit in the winter, but it still goes all winter long. It’s great for exercise or just to get a mental break from life.”

Bollig and the centre can be contacted at 902-870-1583, by e-mail at: reaching_strides2000@hotmail.com, or by visiting the Reaching Strides Web site at: reachingstrides.com.

Photo by Grant McDaniel
The participants of the recent three-day camp held at Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre were all smiles on July 19.