Central Plains Cancer Care and Roycan’s Country Haven also offer programs for adults with cancer.
Anyone who knows horses knows that they are intelligent animals. Anyone who loves horses knows that they can show emotions. But many people do not realize that they can be partners in the healing of children in care, cancer patients and their families, people who are grieving, those who are dealing with the emotions from residential schools, adults coping with addictions and others who have suffered loss or trauma. But that is exactly what horses are doing at Roycan’s Country Haven, 10 minutes
northwest of Portage la Prairie on Road 38 West.
For several years, Roy and Candice Kontzie raised purebred Morgan horses near Waskada, Manitoba, showing them in Manitoba, North Dakota and Oklahoma City. Four years ago they purchased Roycan’s Country Haven, intending to create a facility where people could relax, enjoy the quiet country atmosphere and their horses.
During those four years, Candice soon realized that, “There are lots of needful people out there.” She develops programs which will help these people and Roy builds and maintains the necessary facilities
Two years ago Candice developed her equine-assisted personal development program. She started by working with kids and teens, where they first learn to groom and handle the horses and lead them around the indoor arena.
The Kontzies now have six horses, two of which were donated by individuals who have come to see the value of the programs. While many horses are offered, only those which are able to satisfy very strict criteria are selected. First, they must be intuitive and interested in connecting with humans. Then Candice “interviews” the horse, studying its responses to being handled, groomed and led plus its general attitude. Every horse in the program must be gentle and dependable.
Each client chooses his/her horse, but the horse must also be comfortable with the client. A handler is always with each horse and the client works with a partner. The ultimate connection is when the person is able to lead the horse with no lead rope attached to the horse. The horse
senses the human energy and stops when the person stops. An increase in energy level will let the horse know that it is time to move and eventually to trot, the two communicating in perfect harmony. The most difficult task is when blindfolded, the client must follow Candice’s voice as he/she leads the horse through an obstacle course. This builds confidence. The person learns not only to trust the horse but also to trust him/herself.
Don Middleton, a private therapist (Prairie Therapy Services), teams with Candice several times each week to work with clients. Don, a retired school psychologist and manager of clinical services for over 35 years, came to horses late. A situation arose in his private practice, where a teenage client expressed a strong interest to work with horses. Don found Roycan’s Country Haven through the Internet and contacted Candice. The result was so productive that Don began teaming with Candice and her horses to assist him with other clients. Don is also the oncology therapist for Central Plains Cancer Care Services. For the past 11 years, he has worked with Daisy Dowhy, the resource co-ordinator for CPCCS. A number of years ago Daisy and Don teamed with CancerCare Manitoba to bring their Kids Can Cope program to the residents of 72 rural communities in the area. Today, it is offered up to four times each year at the Haven. CancerCare Manitoba observes the program and is very impressed. The bonding of the children with the horses is awe inspiring and all retreats end with a delicious home-cooked meal prepared and served by Candice and her helpers in the homey cookhouse.
Central Plains Cancer Care and Roycan’s Country Haven also offer programs for adults with cancer. “Evening Getaways” allow cancer patients to simply leave their illness behind for an evening of serenity, exposure to the horses and large doses of camaraderie and fun. During the few hours spent at the Haven, strong bonds develop between the participants as they find others dealing with the same concerns. Candice’s gourmet meals and desserts enjoyed in the cookhouse or outside in the spacious, peaceful yard are always a highlight of these evenings.
Grief workshops are also offered to both children and adults who have lost a loved one to cancer. These full-day workshops, facilitated by Don, Candice and their horses allow participants to lean into their grief, explore their deepest emotions and find the strength to move ahead with grace and dignity.
Twelve, carefully chosen and screened, part-time staff members at Roycan’s Country Haven support the activities. Both Candice and Don have someone trained to replace them so a session never needs to be cancelled.
In the near future, Candice and Roy will be enhancing the Haven with the addition of the Heritage Bunkhouse. This will allow for a permanent facility to accommodate those staying overnight for retreats and workshops. In the meantime, travel trailers are being used.
Custom-designed workshops for corporations and community organizations are also offered, and can be scheduled at any time of the year due to the temperature-controlled indoor arena.
After experiencing Roycan’s Country Haven, you learn that life is not a race but a journey. Candice and Roy stand ready to help you enjoy the trip.
Shirley Case writes from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba