BELMONT, N.S. – Hank may have no training in mental health issues, but he’s done a lot in a short time to help Michelle Babineau MacKenzie.
Hank (PMR Boogie With Rolex) is a seven-year-old paint pony gelding who recently came into Michelle’s life.
“This time last week I was still in bed, but since I got him I’m up at 7 o’clock every morning, doing barn work before I go to work. He makes my day.”
After Michelle’s 19-year-old son, Korey Bates, was killed in a car accident in May 2014 there was a horse who helped her, but she had been without a horse of her own for about a year and a half and wasn’t planning on buying one for a while. When she went to Red Mountain Farm, in Belmont, with a friend she saw Hank and they quickly connected. When she found out he was for sale she felt she had to get him and help him overcome negative experiences from his own past. Knowing how much horses had done for her in the past, her husband Glen helped her buy the pony.
“He’s my first pony but he’s big enough for me,” she said. “We’re going to fix each other.”
She knows Hank will require a lot of patience, and she’s happy to give him her time. On the physical end, she’s been doing stretches and massage with him, and has an equine massage therapist coming to the barn. She’ll also be learning some new things on horseback, as Hank was trained western and she’s always ridden English.
“Horses force you to take care of them, and in taking care of him, I’m taking care of me.”
Michelle said she now knows she hadn’t dealt with everything around her son’s death. A combination of anxiety, depression and being misdiagnosed (and prescribed medication that made her so dizzy she couldn’t stand up) led to a breakdown in May. She was off work for three months.
“I’m ready to deal with things now. I have a psychologist who’s helped immensely and a dog, Stewart, at home who helps a lot too.
“Having Hank will help because when I do something and I sense it makes him happy, then I’m happy. You can’t dwell on your emotional issues when you’re doing something with a horse. If you’re not focused on them and you’re not in the moment with them they’ll let you know. In order get the best out of them you have to give them your best.”