There are countless cowboys willing to break a horse but Moruya’s Adrian Feirer is far more interested in building them up - building their confidence, trust and self control.
It’s a philosophy that extends to troubled teens, and one the organisers of Garindja Wala Waani (Youth Safe Journey) are putting to good use.
The alternative education program for Aboriginal students is a pilot for the state, and targets teens who are disengaging with traditional schooling.
Working with community groups across the shire, it exposes students from Years Nine to 11 to many different experiences including working with the Rural Fire Service, doing First Aid, and completing a white card in Work, Health and Safety.
As part of the program, the teens also get to spend a day with Adrian and his incredible horses.
A gifted horseman, Adrian’s calm, gentle nature instills a confidence in horses that sees them respond in unbelievable ways - like sitting between the legs of another horse while Adrian stands atop cracking a whip!
“The horses know that I’ve never once raised my voice, never got angry,” he said. “Horses are a flight animal, they can take off quite easily but they don’t.”
Adrian believes the bond he builds with his horses is one others can emulate and, in a matter of moments, he has streetwise young people with no previous equine experience doing just that.“It’s a trust thing, if you can have that with a horse, you can have it with a person,” Adrian said. “The students learn how to communicate with horses and how we can solve problems without aggression.
“We are building these kids’ self esteem and confidence. This connection they make with the horses helps them throughout their lives. It fosters their enthusiasm for life and it makes them feel better about themselves because they achieve a goal.
“Horses don’t judge people, they just react. We show the kids how we talk to them in their language, it’s a really special thing.”
The program is a joint effort by Campbell Page and the Education Department and co-ordinators Jennifer O’Brien and Erin Eade are convinced of its worth.
“It teaches them they can achieve when they have been told so many times they can’t,” Jennifer said. “It’s helping them to think positively about themselves. “It gets them outside their comfort zone and they realise they can do anything if they put their minds to it.”