Heaven’s Gait Rodeo event to help create safe haven for victims of PTSD

By William McGinn

Heaven's Gait Rodeo event to help create safe haven for victims of PTSD
Angel Godsoe with a young rider. Photo: William McGinn.

Heaven’s Gait Stable, just north of Cambray, is putting on a rodeo and virtual fundraiser to create a safe haven for victims of trauma. The event will be streamed on Facebook Live on July 3 beginning at 9:30 am on their Facebook page.

Horse riders of all ages will be with their steeds doing such events as bareback riding, pole bending and barrel racing. The proceeds are going towards New Hope Field of Dreams, a place being built at the farm that organizers say will create a safe, accessible, self-sustaining and natural environment for anyone who has suffered from trauma or PTSD.

Angel Godsoe, owner of Heaven’s Gait, and Jason Coulthard, a retired Toronto homicide detective and front-line police officer, have partnered at Godsoe’s barn for the New Hope project.

When Coulthard was only 10, he was sexually assaulted, leading to his desire to be a police officer to prevent that from happening to anyone else. During his time in service, this trauma from his childhood lingered beneath the surface, and when symptoms worsened, he felt the police service was not supportive when he brought his troubles to their attention.

He ended up spending three weeks in the psychiatric ward at Lakeridge Hospital. “I had experienced what the diagnostic symptom manual for mental health calls psychosis, schizophrenia, detachment, double mindedness, and they labelled me as bipolar,” Coulthard told the Advocate, noting he went through three years of panic attacks.

Coulthard has been planning New Hope Field of Dreams for about two years and about a year ago he reached out to Godsoe to begin the program. They are partnering with a mental health provider called Can Praxis who run this kind of equine program in Calgary.

Can Praxis was looking to partner with someone in Ontario, said Godsoe, and saw New Hope Field of Dreams and the Heaven’s Gait stable as an expansion opportunity.

Horses make good therapy, says the stable owner, because of the way the animals can feel and absorb one’s emotions. “If you can communicate effectively with a horse, the hope is you can carry that onto your friends and family. It’s easier with a horse because they’re not going to talk back,” said Godsoe.

The fundraiser during the rodeo is to raise money for a dozen planned cabins to be built on the farm where riders can come and stay. The cabins have already begun construction and the organizers hope to see visitors in them by September.

New Hope Field of Dreams is also partnering with local colleges, artists, and businesses. They have a three-phase plan to build an accessible trail into the wetlands, with Fleming College helping with the environmental assessment study. There will also be a self-sustaining, co-operatively run arts and mobility centre.

When the centre is complete it will be a hub for artists, musicians, dancers, gardeners, physio therapists, and peer to peer support groups.

The Rodeo

For the rodeo, 10 riders and their horse companions are going to be participating in various challenges, with two divisions — those 12 and under, and over 12. Among the various riders, one who Godsoe says she is really proud of is a girl who has a seeing impairment of 80 per cent.

“She came to the stable wanting to be around horses again because she really missed riding. She learned to ride as a youth and when she lost her sight, she wasn’t able to ride again,” says Godsoe. “But now she’s going to be doing barrel racing.”

Another rider, who is also persevering through a disadvantage, has Down Syndrome and will be doing pole bending. Pole bending is a timed event that features a horse and a rider running a weaving path around eight poles arranged in a line. Godsoe will assist on this.

“In the end,” said Godsoe, “I just want to be all-inclusive with my riders and give them a chance to get sponsors and be part of what we’re doing.”

The raising of awareness for PTSD and building a centre where people can experience options that may not have been presented to them in other systems is what keeps her going.

Coulthard said there’s “a large group of us first responders from across Ontario working together to do this. A bunch of us recognize there’s a current problem with our mental health systems” in not always being able to provide the support that’s needed.

If you want to sponsor a rider, call or text Godsoe at 705 928-5227. The proceeds will go towards the cabin construction.

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