Equine Therapy Program Quietly Dismantled by Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Former Constable Speaks Out
In January 2022, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) showed support for Bell Let’s Talk day, a national initiative to promote awareness and support for people with mental illness. Kelsey Muise, a former constable, found this ironic. Having retired from the force months prior, she noticed that the force was trying to break the stigma around mental illness, while simultaneously quietly dismantling its equine therapy program. The initiative aimed to help fellow officers, first responders, and the community connect with horses, but Muise revealed that the collapse of the program was just a symptom of a much larger issue within the force, specifically the inadequate treatment of mental illness.
Muise was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2015 from a culmination of events in her career. She went on sick leave for 18 months before returning to work with the mounted unit, reigniting her passion and purpose for being a police officer. She worked with the mounted unit for three years and trained to become an equine therapist, running multiple eight-week sessions that included members of the RNC and vulnerable populations with mental health issues, poverty, and addiction.
The program allowed for a level of trust and connection between the RNC and the community that had long been missing, breaking down barriers and allowing participants to see police officers as humans. The program’s abrupt end with no explanation, openness, or conversation about it has Muise worried for the officers who remain on the job.
The RNC never publicly announced the end of the program, nor did they inform Muise that they had retired her partner, Dr. Rich, a Percheron, and sent him to another province. The collapse of the program and the failure to properly address mental illness within the force shows a need for change.
Since the RNC has failed to answer questions about the status of the equine therapy program, it remains unclear if the program will be reintroduced or if it will continue to be left in disarray. The program’s closure highlights a much larger issue regarding the RNC’s approach to mental illness, and how they must do more to support their officers’ mental well-being. It is a problem that must be addressed to prevent future harm.