New horse-assisted therapy program opens in Central Okanagan

Click to play video: 'Horse-assisted therapy program good for mental and physical health'
Horse-assisted therapy program good for mental and physical health
Mental health and well being is a hot topic and now there's another type of therapy to explore in Kelowna to help improve your mental well being. Sydney Morton introduces us to a new non profit society called SPARK. – Sep 13, 2022

Humans and horses have always had a special bond. They’ve been used as a means of transportation, on the battlefield, as teammates in sport and as companions.

In the heart of Kelowna, six horses are therapeutic assistants at the Society for Providing Horse Assisted Therapy (S.P.A.R.K.).

“When you talk about horse-assisted therapy, most people assume the therapeutic riding aspect of it and that is and can be an aspect of it but horse-assisted therapy is a wider term and it’s really a way to take care of your mental, of your physical and your spiritual wellness,” said S.P.A.R.K. executive director Annika Voeltz.

Clients of all abilities are welcome in the ring, whether they are there to work on physical or mental differences or just need a kind ear and a sympathetic horse. The horse-assisted therapy sessions are personally tailored so healing can be found in the ring.

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Read more: Harry the Kelowna horse back home after misadventure

“Horses are really masters of mindfulness,” said Voeltz. “They are just naturally in the present and they are non-judgmental.”

Voeltz says the horses feel the client’s energy and work with them and act as a good distraction when talking about tough subjects.

“When you talk about mental and physical health as different categories but I don’t believe that you can actually pick them apart,” said Voeltz.

“The enjoyment from this relationship with another being and to be able to work and communicate with an animal that’s so much bigger and more powerful than you, it’s an amazing confidence booster.”

Read more: Greatest of all time? Meet the B.C. goat that rides horseback

One of the ways to work with the horse is keeping yourself calm and taking deep breaths like client Erin Tannar, who has been around horses all her life. Now, she uses equine therapy to help heal after suffering a brain injury in 2019.

Tannar says that the sessions she has had at S.P.A.R.K. has helped build her confidence.

“I love being with this guy [horse],” said Tannar.
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As part of the opening of the non-profit society, S.P.A.R.K. is hosting an open house on Sept. 24 at their property at 1770 K.L.O. Road and everyone is welcome to visit to learn more about equine therapy.

For more information about the open house and the non-profit, visit

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