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Pair hope to foster life skills through horsemanship

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Deb Martens and Sarah Southwell are hoping to offer at-risk individuals and abused horses a second chance through a fledgling non-profit organization they are spearheading.


Martens and Southwell are the driving forces behind Equine Oasis. The primary aim of the organization will be to help at-risk individuals improve their communication and life skills by working with "second-chance" horses that were abused and have since been rehabilitated.


A fundraiser planned for Jan. 18 at Cowboys Roadhouse in Winnipeg will the first public step in establishing the organization.


"There are many individuals who fall through the cracks," said Martens, whose experience includes providing public relations for disabled persons groups.
She said the term "at-risk" doesn’t just apply to individuals with a

ddictions or who are homeless, as many people have self-esteem and image issues that can negatively affect their lives. She anticipates some of their clients might have developmental delays or be members of inner-city and refugee groups.


 "We’re hoping that by using horses that have also experienced difficulties, there will be better bonding," said Southwell, owner of Hi Point Horsemanship in Dakotah , located on PR 332, south of the Trans-Canada Highway between Headingley and Elie.


Southwell said she discovered most of the second-chance horses at the stable by chance.
"They kind of find me," she said.


Spirit is a mare Southwell received after she purchased a horse trailer. Obviously malnourished, Spirit was also quite aggressive and Southwell said it took her six months to gain the animal’s trust. Now she is one of the gentlest horses in the stable, according to Southwell.


The partners’ business plan calls for Equine Oasis to purchase a bus and shuttle groups from Winnipeg to Hi Point Horsemanship. Martens and Southwell hope that the bus’ operating costs will be partially subsidized by sponsors.


Martens is looking forward to a busy spring and summer as she and Southwell plan to invite representatives from various organizations to tour Hi Point Horsemanship and learn what Equine Oasis can offer their clients and members.


"They won’t be master riders at the end of their program, but that’s not the focus," Martens said.


For more information on Equine Oasis, contact Martens at 204-995-0048.

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