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Alison Vandergragt, Program Director
Owner Alison Vandergragt, of Vanderbrook Farm & Natural Horsemanship Center in Killaloe, Ontario, has a passion for horses and families. After experiencing a personal loss, she found that working with her horse revealed much about herself, and that the principles of natural horsemanship went far beyond practical use. That realization was the impetus that led her to explore the equine assisted concept.
After more than 20 years working in community health – and with her ability to offer insight into mental health issues faced by our aging community members – Alison left her position with a determination and commitment to help others resolve the issues that could potentially be with them for a lifetime. Hope Reins and The War Horse Project was born.
Alison’s passion is supported by her husband of 30-plus years and her eight children.
Wendy Lange-Faria, Psychotherapist M.Ed. Counselling, Registered Psychotherapist with the Ontario College of Registered Psychotherapists, Clinical Traumatologist, Equine Therapy Specialist.
Fear. Stress. Confusion. Disconnection. For many Albertans who witnessed the devastation caused by flooding to their homes and livelihoods, the distress was palpable. While more long-term, equally painful – generational in fact – was watching hours of footage on Indian residential schools and the impacts of children being forcibly removed from their language, culture and families. Words cannot suffice to express what happened to so many children.
More recently, interacting with groups of Canadian soldiers who have come home in body but whose minds still reside in conflict-ridden zones. Suffering. Much suffering.
Anticipation. Change. Hope. Growth. For many Albertans who experienced great loss, they were able to find hope in new beginnings. I have worked with many survivors from the residential school system who strive for change and have become strong advocates and social reformers. I have personally witnessed soldiers leaving the isolation of their homes and learning to once again regain a foothold in the civilian world, rebuilding relationships with loved ones and participating in community life again. Some becoming model citizens and in turn helping others who have been affected by life changing experiences. Resilience.
Helping others has always been a critical part of my personal and professional life. From the time I was a child, my parents took in foster children and taught me the value of sharing with others. As a young adult, I participated in a youth mission helping in an orphanage in Ecuador for a summer. As an adult, I worked with lower income communities and began to see some of the injustices and social inequities therein. It is from these roots where my passion for humanitarian work began.
Professionally, my training and experience have been in the areas of education and business. Field experience working in the area of disaster management has provided me with solid practical knowledge. My administrative skills through work with an aboriginal consulting firm taught me about my own worldview and forced me to rethink cultural perspectives; particularly shaping my approach to designing policy and advocating for social change.