Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 4th 2014 Contents 7|
By Magella Moreau Photos courtesy Veronika Danzer-La Fortune
"MY LOVE OF HORSES began as a child in a little village in
Bavaria in South East Germany. There were horses that
grazed in a field nearby and I helped look after them," remi-
nisces Veronika Danzer-La Fortune, Founder and Director of
Healing with Horses (HWH), and Being with Horses, in Buc-
"Even though my parents weren't animal people, I felt a won-
derful sense of fulfilment from being with horses. And I loved
to adopt abandoned animals or gather up the ones killed on
the road and bury them in the animal cemetery I created."
"By 17, I had become a riding instructor and then later, worked
in a circus for five years. I eventually quit, as it didn't feel right
anymore. I felt that they were forcing the animals to do
things they didn't want to," she explains.
A Trini friend (Jennifer Lyons), a gospel singer who had been
living in Germany for 45 years, invited her to visit T&T for car-
nival, in 2004. After the festivities in Port of Spain, she
headed to Tobago for a three-week "cool down". It would
change her life forever.
An elderly couple, "Ma and Pa Khan" allowed her free board,
so she insisted on paying them back in-kind by washing
dishes and generally helping out in their cafeteria at Signal
Hill. It's there that she learned to make roti and met her hus-
band, Lennon, who was working nearby.
Tobago gave her the space to find her true purpose. And Jen-
nifer, a beautiful chestnut mare "unschooled" her of the
things she had learned in Europe, teaching her how to truly
listen --- to horses and to people. "Life is really all about love
and learning to listen," she says. "Every day horses teach us
these things. A horse is a symbol for liberty, freedom, which
is what everybody strives for."
Danzer-La Fortune's therapeutic work with children and
horses began with Jennifer, who had been abandoned and
was roaming the forests of Speyside with a herd of sheep.
She would eventually walk the horse from Speyside to Buc-
coo --- a 20-hour trek that marked the start of an amazing
new journey for the horse, Danzer-La Fortune and the Buc-
But perhaps the real foundation of this new life was laid, un-
intentionally, by her parents. Her father taught disabled chil-
dren and her mother was like a doula and ran a holistic
birthing centre. Both parents had instilled a sense of nurtur-
ing, compassion and a love for humanity, and her mother now
works with her at HWH as the nurse.
In Tobago you can't buy a horse, but horses that no one
wants anymore seem to find their way to Danzer-La Fortune
and Healing with Horses, where they find a place to be them-
selves. There are now seven of them: Jennifer, King, Mr Divo,
Princess, Julie, Zimbu and Kalakunjin.
Jennifer's earlier history of abandonment and abuse, have
left her as a gentle, loving horse. She's often visited by 35
youngsters from a children's hostel who themselves were
abused and abandoned. Horse and children feel a strong
sense of connection because of a shared experience of
trauma. Like heals like. They love Jennifer and she loves them
King, a former thoroughbred racing horse from Jamaica, who
also raced in Arima, had been retired after a distinguished
racing career, because of injury. When he arrived in Buccoo
he was skinny and exhausted. "The children love them up,"
says Danzer-La Fortune, "and the horses feel as though they
are in heaven. Some just weren't meant to be racehorses,
they didn't want to run and jump on command. I see the
same thing in some of the children who come here. They just
need to be allowed to be who they are."
"There is something special about children and horses," she
says. "There is a lot we can learn from children with special
needs and those who are traumatised. We need to learn to
look from the other side, to open up our hearts and minds."
"So many of the children who come here, come with labels:
disabled, ADHD, difficult. What do we expect? They spend
hours a day in front of the TV or playing video games, we
stuff them full of sweets and additives and they spend less
and less time outdoors. It's not normal for kids to be stuck in
concrete boxes. It's not normal for them to be so contained.
There is a missing link. Children are experiencing lots of
shouting and 'cussing' and begin to acquaint this with love
and attention. We try to teach this in another way, through
the horses and gardening. The more positive love and atten-
tion they receive, the more they blossom. We don't waste
energy feeling sorry for them; we focus on their potential.
We give them purpose and direction and they transform."
Healing through horse therapy happens on a number of lev-
els, says Veronika Danzer-La Fortune. The sound that horses
make is very yogic and helps you to be still. They also help
children diagnosed with ADHD get aligned and focused.
"Horses have a lot of energy and so do children, says Danzer-
La Fortune, "but when both find their place, their purpose, the
change is amazing. We have seen so many changes: in phys-
ical abilities, confidence levels, trust issues. Simple actions
like learning to lead a horse, sit on it, pet or groom it, can leave
children feeling empowered. At healing with horses, we are
just the facilitators, the horses are the medium."
For more information and opportunities to support Healing
With Horses, please visit:
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