Changing NDIS Requirements Threaten Vital Equine Therapy in Broken Hill

The Silver City Riding Academy in Broken Hill, well-known for its equine therapy services catering to people of all ages and abilities, is facing an unexpected operational halt. Changes to the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) requirements have led to the sudden standstill of this valuable therapeutic service. The academy is now reaching out to the community, seeking support to continue its operations.

Equine therapy or equine-assisted therapy involves using horses to facilitate improvement in clients’ mental and emotional health and wellbeing. It’s typically carried out in collaboration between a mental health professional and a horse specialist, aiming for positive outcomes for clients.

Before the recent NDIS changes, clients could participate in therapist-approved equine therapy programs. These sessions were conducted by trained staff, with no requirement for a therapeutic specialist at every session. Now, due to the new mandate, the academy is obliged to employ a full-time therapist for each session, along with a full-time staff to handle the horses. Given the financial strain this presents, the academy has had to discontinue the program, affecting the most vulnerable members of our community.

NDIS support worker, Jackie Mengersen, and her client Merlin Wolf Gang, shared their experiences with the Barrier Truth, detailing the significant impact equine therapy has had on Merlin’s life and her concerns about the program’s closure.

“Before I started equine therapy four months ago, I was in a dark place, not doing anything at all. I was just sitting at home, stewing in my thoughts,” Merlin shared. “I’ve always loved horses because I had one when I was younger. The idea of not being able to visit the horses anymore is very upsetting. They’ve made my life better.”

Cecilia Norley, owner and operator of the academy emphasized the importance of connection fostered by the program. She said, “It’s not always about riding. It’s about forming a connection. A lot of people can’t connect with others at the moment, especially given the recent pandemic. Having a 500-kilo animal show interest and listen to you can be very rewarding.”

Luckily for Merlin, she will continue to be part of the academy as Ms. Norley has offered her a job caring for the horses and ponies. However, there are many others who will miss this essential service.

“We hope to find the support we need to continue providing equine therapy to those who need it,” said Mengersen.

If you can assist the Silver City Riding Academy, you can email Cecilia at [email protected]

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