Juli Coffin at Gantheaume Point, Broome, with two of the Yawardani Jan-ga equine ‘staff’  Romeo and Awesome.

Story Sue Wallace  Photo Abby Murray

When Professor Juli Coffin rides her horse Awesome along the beach at Broome she feels happy and content. “There’s just something about caring for and building a relationship with a horse that is so rewarding,” she says. “If 600kg of horse chooses to interact with you, it’s a pretty good sign, plus horses are non-judgemental and love unconditionally, with no strings attached.”

It’s that special relationship between people and horses that inspired Julie to develop an Aboriginal Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) pilot program that was trialled in Geraldton, WA, in 2014. Hailed a success, it was attended by 370 Aboriginal youth who sought confidence in leadership, and others who faced serious learning, social or emotional issues.

“I saw the difference the program made – horses are basically mental wellbeing experts,” she says. “There are so many things about horses that are unique, including a special inner sense to pick up on how people are feeling. They are really affirming and you feel good around them. A horse also acts as a mirror in the space, where young people who don’t want to talk about issues find a way to express themselves.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #131

Outback Magazine: June/July 2020