Horse riding lessons helping Mohawk youth learn important life lessons

“It's like taking care of any pet, but this is 1000-pound pet,” says Tracey Snow, coordinator of the Kahnawake Equine Youth Program helping Mohawk youth learn to tackle major responsibilities and improve their mental health. Diona Macalinga reports.

By Diona Macalinga

The Kahnawake Equine Program, located south of Montreal, is teaching local youth more than just riding and grooming horses.

Launched in October of 2022, at the Levie Performance Horses arena, the program is becoming popular among people of all ages with many on the waitlist.

“It’s like taking care of any pet, but this is 1000-pound pet. So, there’s a lot of care that needs to go into taking care of horses,” explained Tracey Snow, coordinator with the Mohawk Council of Kahnawá:ke.

“They have to be groomed. They have to be fed. They have to be taken care of. Their feet have to be cleaned, and you have to look after them, you know? So, I think it teaches the kids some major responsibility and respect for the animal.”

Mohawk youth taking horseback riding lessons as part of the Kahnawá:ke Equine Youth Program. (Photo Credit: Kwunkeyi Isichei)

The community initiative received government funding after seeing a need for children to get more involved in sports and other recreational activities after the pandemic.

“The idea came, I guess, just to get kids into nature, get kids around horses. Horses are very therapeutic. They’re using horses in a lot of therapeutic programs across Canada, the United States, and other parts of the world. I would imagine, because it helps with all types of PTSD, anxiety, stress, trauma, any of those disorders that anybody is dealing with.”

The horse-riding lessons are helping young students build their self-confidence.

“When riding them, it’s kind of scary when you first get on. But then as it progresses, it gets a little bit less scary,” said Thaniehtenhas Montour, a student at the Kahnawá:ke Equine Program. “It’s like riding a big bicycle with its own mind.”

Thaniehtenhas Montour, one of the Mohawk youths part of the Kahnawàke Equine Youth Program. (Photo Credit: Kwunkeyi Isichei)

It also teaches kids how to work through their emotions and deal with stressful situations.

“I had to remember not to be scared because horses can feel emotion,” said Aubrey White Bean, a student at the Kahnawá:ke Equine Program.

Jennifer Levie, the owner of Levie Performance Horses, saying, “He’s really working through his scare. He comes every week. Even if he’s got scared, he continues coming. And it really builds self-confidence in the kids.

“The horse knows you and feels you. So, if you have a bad day, the horse feels it right away. It teaches young and old to deal with their emotions and really control them,” Levie added.

“It’s a really good way to show, introduce sports to children who are maybe not super sporty. You know, it’s like out of the box. Not everybody wants to run after a ball.”

With the budget given, the program was meant to last only 22 weeks for 30 kids. But 2 hours after registration opened, Tracey Snow, Coordinator for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, says spots quickly filled up.

“You know what? If we only had one child that signed up and was happy and was enjoying the program, then it’s success to us,” said Snow.

Top Stories

Top Stories