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Retired calèche horses find new job carrying weight of stressed front-line workers

Click to play video: 'Retired Montreal calèche horses help front-line workers find peace' Retired Montreal calèche horses help front-line workers find peace
WATCH: A program at the Horse Tale Rescue is giving exhausted front-line workers a space to destress and escape their daily troubles. Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports – Jan 28, 2021

The days of pulling calèches are over for the horses at the Horse Tale Rescue, but for the last few months they have been taking the weight off the shoulders of front-line workers.

Since November of 2020, the non-profit organization has been helping health-care workers by offering a free, hands-on therapeutic experience with the animals.

“Life throws us curveballs and it’s stressful,” executive director Mike Grenier said.

“The experience program welcomes individuals and allows them to benefit from some well-being with our horses.”

Read more: Provincewide hay shortage leaves A Horse Tale Rescue shelter in desperate need

Since the start of the program, dozens of workers from the health-care system have made their way to the Vaudreiul-Dorion shelter.

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“Some people say they start to relax the minute they get in the car. Their stress level goes down,” experience program co-ordinator Lise Sandstorm said.

The program is not new — the rescue has been offering therapeutic visits to people on the autism spectrum and those with developmental disabilities.

But with the current pandemic situation, organizers decided to open the door to exhausted front-line workers.

“They give so much of themselves, we wanted to be able to give back; give them an opportunity to disconnect and recharge,” Grenier said.

Read more: Research finds stress, anxiety climbing for health-care workers during COVID-19 pandemic

Max Magnifico, who works as a hospital housekeeper at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, has been coming on a weekly basis.

“They have such a great energy, just by coming up to you, you feel it.

Magnifico says working in the hospital during the pandemic has put added stress in his life.

“Cleaning COVID rooms and having that fear, it’s a lot of stress for a person,” Magnifico said.

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He says just being in the presence of the horses allows him and others to disconnect but also reconnect with nature and the animals.

Volunteers can choose to simply be with the horses or they can opt to lend a hand and help out around the rescue.

Despite his long days and shift work, Magnifico doesn’t mind grabbing a rake and cleaning up after the animals, also called mucking.

“You don’t feel like you’re working, you feel like your doing something incredible,” he said.

Read more: Research to examine emotional well-being of physicians, nurses during pandemic

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