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At Heart Lake Farm in Saanichton, horses Gina and Fanny are ready for work.
“From the first day, I loved it,” said Ernano Angelozzi, a brain injury survivor who routinely works with Gina and Fanny.
From afar, it may look like an introduction class to horse training 101, but Humble Hooves sessions are one of many ways in which Angelozzi is continuing his recovery from a tragic brain injury he suffered 23 years ago.
“I fell off a balcony right in front of my apartment from my second story in Montreal,” said the 57-year-old. “I don’t remember landing, I was in a coma for a month, hospital for a year.”
The injury greatly impacted his speech, balance and other cognitive abilities. But with help from the Victoria Brain Injury Society and research-based initiatives like Humble Hooves, Angelozzi and others have seen steady improvement.
“Each obstacle is designed to promote things like communication, leadership, active listening,” said Tammera Merkens, co-owner of Humble Hooves. “The two humans, with one horse, they work together through each obstacle.”
“This is a very nice program,” said James Sharp, a participant in the program who’s suffered multiple concussions in the past. He calls the time with the horses a way to clear his mind and practice empathy.
“To take part in this, and anything that you can do to help improve yourself, you should sign up for.”
And these 800-pound therapeutic horses not only help heal but provide much-needed hope.
“I don’t know, I might be homeless on the streets doing a lot of drugs if it wasn’t for the brain injury program,” said Angelozzi.
“To be able to give something like this to someone and have an impact on their life is why we do what we do,” said Merkens.
For more information on programs with the Victoria Brain Injury Society, click here.