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*Originally published in Talent North Magazine*

Rescued Horse - by Jennifer Lacelle

Being strong isn’t always about how much muscle you’re packing or how many weights fit on the barbell someone can lift. Sometimes it’s about trying your hardest to protect what you love even if it means potentially sacrificing yourself in the process.

People who have served in the Canadian Military have done just that – put their lives at risk for their country, their family and complete strangers.

Retired Sergeant Eric Coupal (served from 1995-2014) is finding a new way to serve. He is the president of a new therapy centre for soldiers and veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Selene Selinger, a registered nurse, is the Vice President of the up and coming Quartz Ridge Sanctuary.

The pair decided to create the centre after Coupal’s best friend, Corporal John Unrau, took his life on July 1, 2015. He served for over twenty years, was injured while in Afghanistan and suffered from severe PTSD.

“His dream was to move back home, live with his mom and get a dog,” Selinger explains. “He could not see a future for himself as a citizen.”

Selinger also explains that when Corporal Unrau did seek assistance he didn’t find a program that suited his needs.

That’s where Quartz Ridge Sanctuary begins. The name comes from the two ridges that surround the house, both are filled with quartz veins. The property, located in a beautiful and quiet area surrounded by lush woods and running waters, provides a safe place for veterans to learn, adapt and heal.

Psychologists Dr. Keith Klassen and Dr. Lorraine Champaigne will be working in conjunction with the sanctuary. They have over 50 years of combined experience in treating PTSD, head injuries, and adjustment issues. The three main component they intend to provide are mindfulness, stress management/biofeedback training, and individual or group therapy.

The sanctuary will also provide participants with therapeutic activities that include raising crops and livestock, beekeeping and horse-back riding.

Quartz Ridge Sanctuary will teach veterans about preparing soil, irrigation, seeding, cutting, how to operate and maintain farm equipment and more. They will help grow large crops of hay for the animals on the property but will also maintain a small vegetable garden. Produce will be consumed by participants but any excess will be sold at a local farmer’s market to provide them with the chance to learn about “basic marketing principles.”

This section of the program also includes raising livestock including chicken, cattle, ducks and goats. Participants will learn about the physiology of farm animals, nutritional needs, handling, sheltering and such.

Beekeeping will also be provided as part of the program. Both Coupal and Selinger are certified beekeepers and already maintain a number of hives on the property. They will provide instruction on caring for bees and harvesting and preparing honey, among other necessities.

The therapeutic riding isn’t just for the human participants of the program. All of the horses at Quartz Ridge are rescues from abusive homes.

“It is hoped that the horses will help heal the psyche of the soldiers and veterans and the emotional assistance will be reciprocated and help heal the psyche of the horses,” Selinger explains.

The length of the program will run from six to eight weeks. This will allow each participant to gain skills that are “transferable to the civilian workforce.” It would run during weekdays from the end of May to the end of October. No opening date has been established as of yet.

Quartz ridge is still seeking fundraising assistance and the community has been a great support. So far, just under $12,000 has been donated.

They are hoping to decrease the stigma of PTSD and one way to do that is to keep the public involved and engaged through various fundraisers. Selinger also says they’re still looking for volunteers or donations to help get them started.

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