Home' Army News : January 31st 2013 Contents Army January 31, 2013
WO1 John Phillips
handed the baton of top
Aviation Corps soldier to
his successor WO1 Terry
Hangan at a symbolic
passing of the pacestick
in Oakey on December 5
WO1 Phillips held
the position since 2010
while posted as RSM
of the Australian Army
Aviation Training Centre
(AAvnTC). He is taking
a commission to captain
and has been posted to 5
Avn Regt in Townsville.
WO2 Hangan was
SSM of HQ AAvnTC last
year and filled in as RSM
AAvn in WO1 Phillips'
absence. He has been
posted as RSM 6 Avn
Regt in Holsworthy.
Aviation's new senior soldier
Horses help with
Sgt Rachel Ingram
and Aurora Daniels
IT IS no secret that there has always
been a remarkable bond between
man and beast, and while people
might think technology has replaced
many of the old ways of life,
Townville's Soldier Recovery Centre
has found some things just can't be
The centre trialled an Equine-
Assisted Therapy Program for
seven weeks during November and
December to help personnel get back
on their feet. It was such a success that
it will be extended for the rest of this
financial year with hopes to gain fund-
ing to continue into the future.
Centre OIC Capt Simon Bowen
says although some soldiers with
extensive physical and mental inju-
ries have in the past isolated them-
selves and had difficulty connecting
with others, for many in the program,
a connection with the seven hors-
es -- Kieran, Archie, Benny, Forest,
BamBam, Secret and Ted -- is far easi-
er to achieve.
PTI Cpl Esther Smith, an experi-
enced horse woman and riding instruc-
tor, heard about an equine-therapy
program in New York which helped
US and UK militaries rehabilitate
troops. She contacted her friend,
equine therapy instructor and Kallon
Park Equestrian Centre owner Jayne
Mrs Riley understood the positive
influence a relationship with animals
could have and was eager to donate
her experience, time and facilities
for the soldiers' trial. Tracey Wilmot,
(owner of Archie and Forest) also
donated her time and experience to
assist in running the program.
Each soldier is given charge of a
horse and is then instructed in a series
of exercises with the animal through-
out the four-hour weekly session.
"Every horse has their own person-
ality, their own facial expression and
body language. We aim to teach the
soldiers to be able to read the subtle
body language that the horse uses to
communicate," Cpl Smith says.
"Horses are also a hierarchal herd
animal and therefore are happiest
when they know where they stand in
whatever herd they find themselves in.
Because they are also a prey animal,
their survival depends on their ability
to communicate with each other and
by being protected by their leader.
"Because of this leadership needs
to be constantly tested and reassured.
We teach the soldiers to become these
leaders and to provide the horse with
that comfort that he innately desires.
"This in turn teaches the soldiers
to have self-confidence, to commu-
nicate better and to be a leader. Just
being around a horse can be a healing
thing in itself. There is an old quote
that I use quite regularly from Winston
Churchill and it is 'the outside of a
horse is good for the inside of a man'.
It is so true."
Army psychologist Capt Ryan
Dixon hopes the program will add to
other therapies the soldiers are taking
"It seems to get the guys to realise
what behaviour traits they are project-
ing so they can improve their commu-
nication skills," he says.
"It also helps post-stress. It cer-
tainly puts them out of their comfort
zone but it also builds confidence,
and any extra skills they are gaining
while enjoying themselves is certainly
Jane Hayter, regional rehabilitation
manager for north Queensland, attend-
ed training with some of the members'
rehabilitation consultants, and says it
was amazing to watch the pleasure
those involved got from the project.
"One soldier was scared to go near
such a large animal but he did and
he was so chuffed he had overcome
his fear. Others were excitedly asking
if they could take a photo for him, it
was really wonderful and such a great
team-building mechanism," she says.
"Another soldier was working
with the horses and turned to another
man amazed, saying 'Do you realise I
haven't had a smoke since being here.
I must really enjoy doing this.' It is just
wonderful that they are seeing the ben-
efits for themselves.
"A participant couldn't get a horse
to come to him. He had been told to
relax and thought he was but didn't
realise his shoulders were still held up
tight and he wasn't breathing deeply.
When he realised this and changed it,
the horse could tell and came to him,
so they are learning relaxation tech-
niques that will really help them at
work and at home as well."
The interactions are written down
and logged by the soldiers, giving
them the opportunity to reflect on the
day and discuss with Cpl Smith to
determine how they can rectify any
difficulties with managing their horse
during the next session.
Twenty-five soldiers from
Townsville have taken part in various
Equine therapy works wonders for recovering soldiers
sections of the trial with other ADF
areas, including members from the
Navy, wanting to get involved in the
LCpl Douglas Brand, a marine
specialist with 35/50 Water Tpt and
Terminal Sqn, enjoyed the training
he did with the animals while he was
doing rehabilitation after a knee injury.
He was surprised by the changes he
saw in other soldiers, as well as how
the horses responded.
bit me on the arse, so it was great that
didn't happen again," he laughs.
"I worked with horse Ben and
we learned to groom them, how to
approach them, how to put the harness
on and lead them. We had to spook
them and then try to get their trust and
not be scared of them. We then showed
the horse we were in charge and they
ended up doing what we wanted them
to. It was great.
"One infantry guy had his leg shot
up pretty bad in Afghanistan, but I
think he is now enjoying time with the
"Another guy was petrified of
horses. He was also an infantryman
so he wasn't exactly all meek and
mild; I talked to him recently and he
said he now loved it and was really
happy because he was out there riding
them. It calms everyone down and they
develop confidence after they step out
of their comfort zone and then achieve
"They never had any trouble filling
all the spots on that course."
Capt Bowen says with this training
method, and the lessons learnt from
the horses, the soldiers are accom-
plishing things that haven't occurred
in a simple talk therapy session in
Information on coming courses will be passed
from Capt Bowen to north Queensland region
unit welfare officers. Capt Bowen can also be
contacted on DRN email for any other infor-
mation concerning either the equine-assisted
therapy program or the Soldier Recovery
Horsing around: LCpl Douglas Brand learns how a halter works under the watchful eye of "Jack" during the
first week of the Equine-Assisted Therapy Program in Townsville. Inset, Cpl Ester Smith (left) oversees the
program with Kallon Park Equestrian Centre instructors Tracey Wilmot and Jayne Riley, who donated their time
and facilities for the course.
Photos by Sgt Rachel Ingram
Hand over: WO1 John Phillips (left) hands the pacestick to WO1 Terry
Hangan, who takes over as the top soldier in the Aviation Corps.
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