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October 27, 2017 9:47 pm

Building on the Ride

Tuesday, August 2, 2016 @ 5:59 AM


clockwise from bottom left, Terry Nichols, Paul Nichols, MP Erin O’Toole, MP Todd Doherty, and  North Central Local Government Association President  Laurey Anne Roodenburg

Prince George, B.C.-  It has been   8 months since Paul and Terry Nichols  of Kersley, wrapped up their 200 day cross Canada  horseback  ride to  raise awareness  about  equine therapy  for  veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but  the road ahead may be just as long.

The Nichols are offering a program called “Equine Assisted Mindfulness” which sees veterans working with horses  as a step on their transition  to  community life.  They have  run  some  pilot  sessions and  have seen  positive results.  But  providing those programs costs money and  the Nichols are shouldering much of the costs themselves.

Paul Nichols  served   with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry in Croatia and Bosnia.  when he returned to Canada he  remained in the military for a time, until  he and his wife decided to start a family.  It was when he left the military that Paul started to struggle “For me, that’s when my war started.  I left this close family, this brotherhood,  and I say that in a gender non specific  way, but it’s also a matter of   being able to rely  on the people  you serve with, we live by a code.  I came from a world where people make things happen quickly, it’s all about forward movement, it’s  speedy, even at the sake of hurting  someone’s feelings,  you don’t take feelings into account, you weren’t issued feelings it’s just  get the job done.  We come home and find  ourselves in a civilian world where it’s a kinder, gentler  Canada  and  when you  make such a drastic shift into what is normal, some of our troops  are struggling because they can’t find their way.”

Nichols says Equine AM helped him cope and from there decided to raise awareness in the hopes of helping other veterans who were struggling.  Over the course of the cross country ride,  hundreds of  veterans saddled up to join him for  at least a portion of the  trek.

(At right, NCLGA President  Laurey Anne Roodenburg, Erin O’Toole and Todd Doherty get  a lesson in equine therapy from Terry Nichols and “Skipper”nichols2)

Former  Minister of Veterans Affairs Erin O’Toole joined Cariboo- Prince George MP Todd Doherty and  representatives from all levels of  government for a visit to the Nichols ranch to learn more about the program and to help build a plan to move it forward.

Critical to moving the program forward is funding,  “They’re actually selling their own properties,  boats and things,  to help other veterans” says O’Toole.  “What we need to do is to make sure they learn some of the great practices some of the other  great equine programs have done to help make sure they have the  clinical  therapy aspect built right into the program.”

O’Toole says equine therapy is  cutting edge treatment “The horse is the therapist that opens the door to talk about the underlying injury.  In some cases, veterans haven’t had any experience tackling the issues they are suffering from.  We’ve already heard how these  programs they are running here allow people to leave their home for the first time in  nearly a decade,  it’s remarkably successful  and we have to make sure,   that once they open up to treatment here,  that they (veterans) continue treatment in their own community with a  therapist or counselor or peer counseling.”  He says there needs to be standards for these type of treatment programs  so professionals, whether it is in Vancouver or Prince Rupert, understand  the programs.

But  getting to the  point where  the  Nichols program incorporates those standards  will take more work and  time.  To start,   O’Toole has advised them to  develop a business  plan .  He has also  offered  to connect them with a number of organizations  he  has gotten to know  through his previous work  in Veteran’s Affairs  and the  True Patriot Love Foundation he founded which aims to help veterans and their families.

“The Nichols are not just  talking the talk,  they are walking the walk,  they proved that with the ride they did last year” says MP Doherty.  “We need to help them  build that critical component so they can continue to  focus on what they  do best and not worry about  things like, how are they going to get veterans here, so that when a veteran calls and says ‘I need help’,  they don’t have to  sell something to get that veteran here.”

So for the Nichols, the journey continues “We still have a long way to go” says Paul Nichols “It’s a process, and we are learning our lessons as we go.  The troops across Canada told us what they want,  they told us they want this program, so we have to reflect that,  it’s our new purpose. We’re not going to quit.”


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