A year ago, if you told Monika she would be saddling a horse on her own and riding trails, she would think you were crazy. Mainly because she was afraid of horses.
Today, Monika is a veteran participant in The Mustard Seed horse program at Camp Nakamun where she and other community participants go once a week to learn how to saddle and ride their favourite horses on various trails.
“I never dreamed that I would ever be capable of getting on a horse and riding her without any fear and having total trust in my horse,” says Monika.
The riding program, sponsored by Sherwood Park Alliance Church, is designed to be a therapeutic treatment for community participants. The program focuses less on skill and more on assisting with a broad range of issues from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, to a spectrum of addictions and mental health conditions. Individuals learn a variety of life skills such as communications, boundaries, assertiveness, confidence, and managing emotions.
For Monika the experience has given her a new sense of confidence in herself. She remembers falling off the horses three times but learned to overcome her fear by getting back up.
“I was scared about falling, and I learned that the horse can smell your fear, but the volunteers are there to immediately help you get back on which really helped.”
Often described as shy and reserved, Monika has learned to try new things through The Mustard Seed programs. Even though her living situation may not always be stable, she has not let that prevent her from participating in the weekly women’s lunch circle at the 96th Street Church Building and the Lady Flowers Garden program.
“I love the sense of community at The Mustard Seed,” says Monika.
Monika looks forward to her time at Camp Nakamun and even has a favourite horse she likes to ride.
“I love riding Patches, even though she threw me off a few times, she is still my favourite horse. The Mustard Seed Horse Riding program has taken away all of my fear of going near such as large, but very beautiful animal.”
When she is up on Patches, Monika is not thinking about her personal problems. She is instead focused on learning new skills that give her courage.