Police AssociAtion of novA scotiA 53 Bullying Awareness 40th Annua l Cr ime Preven t i on Gu i de 2010 PANS As originally Published in Blue Line Magazine Gary McGuigan, at Working with horses as a youth helped Charlottetown Police Services (CPS) Dep/Chief Gary McGuigan through some difficult times and he wondered if it might do the same for other youth. McGuigan began developing a horse program with the Youth Intervention Outreach Program, which sees an employee of the attorney general’s office work alongside front line officers in dealing with troubled youth. To the uninitiated, the program looks like a few adults and youth mucking out horse stalls, yet the reality is a well crafted series of teachable moments designed to build skills. Long before the magic happens between the horses and youth, many life skills are explored. Typically, the outreach worker refers interested youth to the program. They must complete a resume, have been dealt with by extra-judicial measures and agree to an interview with McGuigan and outreach worker Chuck MacPherson at the police station. Successful candidates are invited to begin the program at the stable. Perhaps for the first time, youth begin to see the police and other authority figures in a different light. The same person in uniform and sitting behind a desk is now dressed in a different uniform – rubber boots and stained coveralls, which may not smell the best at times. McGuigan directs his attention to the young person as a work mate, demonstrating the subtleties of barn work – cleaning stalls, placing new bedding, fresh water and hay, measuring and mixing feed and placing it in the stalls for the next morning. McGuigan then takes a mare out of the paddock and provides meticulous, age-appropriate instruction on safety and grooming practices. He discusses the pregnancy cycle and signs to look for leading up to the actual foaling. From this point on, the best he can do is to role model good work ethics, interaction between colleagues, family and youth, he says. The rest is up to the horses and this is where the magic happens. “Horses provide a mirror image of the youth’s behavior,” says McGuigan. “Horses are non-judgmental, they don’t care what the youth has done in the past (and) therefore have no expectations or motives. Kids build a relationship based on trust, caring and compassion. Every time they enter the barn, they work on the relationship and build on it. The kids leave their baggage at the barn door.... “Anyone who is involved with horses knows when you do make that connection with the horse it can be a very compelling moment in their lives.” The youth not only make the connection but take on the role of teacher and caretaker for the foals, often introducing them to new situations such as brushing, hand feeding and touching, which develops trust. It is very empowering for kids to have a 1200 pound mother trust them to be around their new baby and to win the foals’ trust. These are huge accomplishments for the young person and they feel good about using newly acquired skills, says McGuigan. “All of the things they do at the barn and all of the risks they take around the horses are positive events that we reinforce with praise, humor and feedback to make the experience special for the kids.” The other component of the program which is powerful yet subtle, is how normal the setting is. McGuigan opens not only his stable but his home to troubled youth. Wife Tammy and daughter Taylor see this program as just another part of life. What’s another kid hanging around the barn? Very normal, they say, which is truly a genuine comment. It is in the sincerity and caring of the McGuigan family, including the mares, that contribute to the success of this program. Youth, especially those at high risk, have a keen sense of who are worthy of their trust. McGuigan has won this trust each and every time, building bridges between the police and youth – one kid at a time. Introducing troubled youth to “normal”