Equine Meets Clinical Therapy at Exclusive Centre for First Responders

January 7, 2020

The Stable Grounds Inc. is an exclusive residential facility for first responders (law enforcement, fire fighting, paramedic and medical services, to military and correctional services) veterans and uniform personnel who are faced with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, substance use and more. The southwestern Ontario centre combines clinical with optional equine therapy.

Founded in 2016 and co-owned by a husband and wife team comprised of Kevin and Rachel Webber, it is the only facility in Canada exclusive to first responders. This demographic holds a special place for Kevin Webber, who is a fire captain with over 29 years of service.

Firefighters surround Stable Grounds founders Kevin and Rachel Webber

Another huge draw to the facility is their Eagala equine therapy, as they are the only certified long-term residential facility in Canada to use this method.

“Our guests receive equine therapy throughout the week. There are four team members per session: the guest, the equine specialist, the mental health professional (whether psychologist, nurse or social worker, for example), and of course, the horse! We offer both individual and group sessions of equine therapy.”

Program Director, Rachel Webber shares:

“After years of offering this complementary therapy, our feedback forms still confirm that equine therapy is the highest rated therapy favoured by our guests!”

horses grazing
Stable Grounds’ Eagala therapy is optional but a guest favourite

The Stable Grounds Inc. offers both daytime and residential programs of one to three months. The facility accepts referrals for the residential programs, however doctor referrals are not mandatory.

“Guests often join us because their care provider (i.e. doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, case manager or social worker) feels that the support of exclusive care with other first responders is the best way to help them recover, and in some cases, it’s pivotal in their return to work,” says Webber.

“Our programs are focused on our guests feeling better first, then on helping them return to work and/or their normal life.”

The facility works closely with psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, social workers, counsellors (evidence-based criteria, certified) and nurses, as well as equine specialists, mental health equine specialists, nutritionists, yoga and meditation instructors, recreational and occupational therapists, and several other relevant experts.

“We work collaboratively as a team, between those who don’t have medical training and those who do. For example, our mindfulness experts can work with our therapists, our equine specialists can collaborate with our counsellors, and it’s very fluid and guest focused,” shares Webber.

The back of the Stable Grounds residence
The back of the Stable Grounds residence

There is good communication between the clinical and complementary sides, however there’s still great respect for privacy. The program director explains:

“Guests receive one on one sessions with their psychologist. Clinicians debrief all staff as needed, but respect guest confidentiality. Non-clinicians share all their relevant observations with clinicians. It’s truly a group effort, from the executive chef to the therapist!”

She adds that they’re in the business of delivering high-quality clinical care in a comfortable setting to allow their guests the best chance at recovery.

Stable Grounds common area
A comfortable shared living room for the guests to rest and connect

“It’s really nice to see guests in the back yard doing yoga; we love to see that our hybrid programs work well, and we receive positive feedback.”

Currently a 10-room facility, any plans for expansion wouldn’t exceed 24 rooms, explains Webber.

“Privacy is paramount; the rooms are private, and the property is private. We feel strongly about individual needs being met through clinical attention, a multitude of various therapies, and always respecting personal space.”

Stable Grounds' film sitting room
A sitting room for guests to enjoy

The Stable Grounds Inc. received their accreditation decision on October 2, 2018. The facility had three people dedicated to preparing their accreditation survey and it turned their attention to their human resources.

“What an incredible process to learn, and thankfully recognize that we had a lot in place already. Now, communication between our facility and our guests, is tighter from start to finish.”

Webber feels that accreditation helped them establish equality for all staff members.

“We gave them detailed job descriptions (which included suggestions from the workers) and scheduled their evaluations on a quarterly basis. We created scheduled opportunities to have conversions to learn from them and support their work,” she says.

“Accreditation made us aware that each improvement we made to our facility was a quality improvement and those things are recognized by others, from safety features to convenience,” affirms Webber.

The Stable Grounds kitchen
The Stable Grounds kitchen

Though their next survey is in 2020 they’ve already started a quality improvement list, added 20 to 30 items, and are starting to check items off.

“We added safety barriers to prevent the horses escaping when we’re transferring them from paddocks. We’ve installed a door to let horses in and out of the arena, which is beneficial when Eagala sessions are being conducted. We’ve also made upgrades to our water system that goes out to meeting room, where there’s a bathroom and kitchenette with a juice bar.”

The Stable Grounds Inc. fosters open communication with guests and families. They receive several calls from first responders, guests, psychologists, all looking to make this process easier for the guest.

“Essentially, we give them a detailed plan of the process, start to finish. With one call to us, we guide them with next steps,” says Webber.

“It’s always been on the guest to find their care centre, and sometimes they fall between the cracks. We’re working on that one-stop shop, we’re not a detox facility, but we do offer support for addictions and substance abuse as a secondary lens of care. PTSD is our first and foremost care focus, then follows anxiety and depression.”

Their programming includes scheduled family days as well.

The front view of the Stable Grounds facility
The front view of the Stable Grounds residence

The founders are looking to open an additional centre in Northern Ontario to facilitate family inclusion and offer greater accessibility for those first responders who are not easily able to travel to southwestern Ontario.

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