• Mental Wellness Pt. II

      This blog is a continuation from our Embracing Mental Health blog. If you’re struggling with mental health, you’re not alone. The pressures added to society due to Covid-19 are two-fold. Here, we get some meaningful advice from Psychologist Vanessa Goodchild, for navigating the world we currently live in. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOMDepression looks different… [Continue Reading]

      Mental Wellness Pt. II
    • Johnny Cakes

      These old fashioned pancakes are best served stacked high and with sides of Saskatoon blueberry compote or vanilla whipped cream. Sunday morning breakfast will never be the same again. By MIKE EDGAR, Photos by TWISTED TREE PHOTOGRAPHY Ingredients• 1 Cup Flour• 1 Cup Cornmeal• 2 Eggs• 2 1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder• 2 Tbsp. Sugar• 1 Tsp. Salt• 3/4 Cup Buttermilk• 1/2 Cup Water•… [Continue Reading]

      Johnny Cakes
    • Embracing Mental Wellness

      With so much loss associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s easy to understand why a significant number of mental health issues started rearing their ugly heads in 2020. The good news is, horses are a healthy coping mechanism for dealing with it all. In this two-part blog, we get some meaningful advice from Psychologist Vanessa… [Continue Reading]

      Embracing Mental Wellness
    • New Years 2021

      By JENN WEBSTER, PHOTOS BY TWISTED TREE PHOTOGRAPHY What are you doing for New Year’s Eve? I can tell you – my family has been waiting for this day all year long… That’s not to say we expect 2021 to morph us immediately into an easier time, but we do have hope for the upcoming… [Continue Reading]

      New Years 2021
    • Making the Most of Everything

      The following is an excerpt from my current Publisher’s Note in Western Horse Review. Considering the new restrictions / changes / happenings of the past week, I’ve needed to re-look at my own writing. My own history. I needed this reminder. Perhaps many of you will find it helpful too… Growing up as the young… [Continue Reading]

      Making the Most of Everything
    • THE YEAR THAT WASN’T

      BY JENN WEBSTER As we approach the end of 2020 and reflect back, it’s crazy to think about the events of the past year. In fact, some of the events were the strangest of the strange… Yet, what might be even odder is the notion that we began to accept them as normal, almost cliché.… [Continue Reading]

      THE YEAR THAT WASN’T
    • Boerderij Cheese Fondue

      A ranch version of a Swiss classic. By MIKE EDGAR, PHOTOS BY TWISTED TREE PHOTOGRAPHY Celebrate the season with a big, beautiful platter of cheese, charcuterie, bread and seasonal fruits. This gooey indulgence is a festive family tradition in many households, but is a delicious treat at any time. Serve it around a holiday table… [Continue Reading]

      Boerderij Cheese Fondue
    • Remembering our Aboriginal Veterans

      BY DEBBIE MACRAE While not officially recognized by the Federal Government as National Aboriginal Veterans Day, November 8th, was inaugurated in Winnipeg in 1994 to recognize the efforts of our Indigenous Veterans and aboriginal participants. Even before the War of 1812, territorial expansion was being guarded and defended against invasion by encroaching military and political… [Continue Reading]

      Remembering our Aboriginal Veterans

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Mental Wellness Pt. II

When you have horses, a lot goes into it – it’s not just about riding. Caring for a horse can add to a person’s productivity. Photo by Wildrose Imagery.

This blog is a continuation from our Embracing Mental Health blog. If you’re struggling with mental health, you’re not alone. The pressures added to society due to Covid-19 are two-fold. Here, we get some meaningful advice from Psychologist Vanessa Goodchild, for navigating the world we currently live in.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Depression looks different in every person. Sadly, many men who suffer from anxiety or depression don’t always get noticed.

“Society expects females to cry and share our emotions. Yet still in today’s day and age, society expects men not to share feelings of sadness or overwhelm, etc. Therefore, many men kind of withdraw and bottle up their emotions – they feel like it’s a sign of weakness or they are a failure if they show emotion,” Goodchild states.

She goes on to say that sometimes men don’t even realize depression is a “thing” because there is so much dishonour in society surrounding it.

“We need to slowly reduce that stigma,” she says. “With men , depression or anxiety can show up as aggression or irritability. It’s like an iceberg – on the surface there’s just a little piece popping up out of ocean. This is what we all see – the aggression or irritability. But underneath the water is a larger piece of the iceberg. Underneath there is sadness, guilt, blame, self-doubt, loss and grieving, hopelessness and from my experience in speaking with many male clients, it stems from the belief that they are not good enough and they feel like a failure…”

The psychologist says the reason this happens so often is because of the expectations many men put on themselves.

“They want to be the rock of the family and when challenges or stressors arise , they bring sadness and fear, but also, shame. Men may feel like they are letting down their family. They don’t think they can open up to anyone. It’s not expected in our culture. The pain gets heavier and heavier, until they can’t deal with it anymore,” she explains.

For men, depression or anxiety can be silent and harder to recognize – therefore making it more difficult for them to reach out for support. And according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), “…among Canadians of all ages, four of every five suicides are male.” As such, the CMHA are calling it “a silent crisis.”

“Men are more likely to commit suicide, compared to women,” explains Goodchild. “Women will attempt it but often fail. It’s not a sign of weakness or failure, it’s an actual illness. And it’s not something we can deal with a quick fix. People with suicidal thoughts cannot just ‘Get Over It.’ Even medication can’t just fix it – but there are tools to help people struggling,” the psychologist states.

If you’re someone already strained by a mental health issue, the stressors of 2020 have done little to calm the stormy seas of uncertainty. In fact, the year has exposed many more troubling mental health vulnerabilities. On June 25, 2020, the CMHA put out a press release that stated, “The pandemic has caused intense stress and disruption for all people in Canada, and is causing pronounced mental health concerns, including suicidal thoughts and feelings, in various subgroups of the population, including parents, those with existing mental illness or mental health issues, Indigenous people and those with a disability or who identify as LGBTQ+.”

Goodchild echoes this sentiment. “With Covid, many people with mental health issues have had their coping mechanisms taken away from them. Things like going for coffee, getting away, going on vacation, etc. I’m seeing a lot more anxiety and depression these days.”

“If you don’t feel there’s someone out there you can really open up and talk to, consider seeing a psychologist,” advises Goodchild.

“We’re trained specifically to treat mental illness. We know the research and we’re a compassionate ear. We can walk alongside people as they heal and become better versions of themselves.”

If you are someone who may need to reach out for help, consider this: the more people who come forward and find support, the more the stigma will be erased.

“It’s unfortunate there’s so much stigma associated with ‘mental illness,’ says Goodchild. “Because with an illness, it might be something you can fix! There’s hope. Mental illness might just be a condition where a lot of stressors / difficulties have come up and it’s way too much for one person on their own. It’s more common than we think – but it is treatable. You can learn how to overcome it. We can show you tools and strategies to use, to help you get back to where you were or want to be.”

WHAT CAN BE DONE
If you notice someone close to you may need support, the first step is to check in on them or call them . Don’t pity them, Goodchild advises.

“Reach out to them because it’s harder for them to reach out to you. Show them you care. Find out if they need to talk. If they do feel they can open up to you, listen! Listen without the intent to respond right away and just be there, with them and for them.”

Goodchild says that often it’s human nature to want to solve the other person’s problems and try to fix it for them, but that doesn’t always help.

“They just might need to know that someone cares about them and they can benefit from a little distraction for the time being. Humour might be good. A kind, caring mindset is good. Be compassionate but not belittling to that person.Ask them, ‘What can I do for you?’ Whether it’s cooking a meal, recommending a funny movie, or just somehow maintaining that connection between you – it can all help,” says the psychologist.

Depression and anxiety can happen when a person becomes so numb, so detached, that they don’t know what to do. In some cases it might be helpful to book that person a therapy appointment.

“Help them look up a psychologist in the area,” Goodchild suggests. “But help them confidentially. Learn about depression! Some people think it’s not even a thing – they think a depressed person should be able to snap out of it, but that doesn’t work.”

She says that it’s frequently helpful to learn what depression and anxiety are, what the signs and symptoms are and recognize if someone close to you is showing those behaviours.

“If that’s case, then you may have to impede a little more – if it means saving their life. Looking up signs of suicidal behaviour in people may be good knowledge too. Things like sending a text out of the blue, a goodbye call or letter, or tying up loose ends.

And know that sometimes we don’t see the signs either…” she stresses.

Above all, try not to “fix” that person. Avoid certain statements that are blaming and shaming. Think before you speak and always ask yourself, “Will this be helpful?” before you say something to someone who is in genuine pain.

“For example, don’t say things like, ‘Everyone gets sad sometimes…’ You don’t want to minimize the situation, nor criticize it either.”

Instead, Goodchild recommends saying things like, “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately.”

“Show them gently that you see them and hear them, but you’re still not blaming nor criticizing them.”

She says there can a heavy burden for caregivers living with someone with mental illness or depression. If they really rely on you, you have to ensure you set yourself up with emotional boundaries.

“It can affect the caregiver greatly too,” Goodchild explains. “Our nervous systems do tie up with the people around us. Therefore, we must be in check with ourselves too. Honour our own needs. We have to make sure we’re still exercising and seeking support. Because otherwise, this can lead to burnout.”

As stated, support can be extremely helpful and can be found in numerous, different ways. Especially in big cities. However, rural people may need to look at more online outlets. Sometimes there are helpful tools online, things like support groups for people with chronic pain. Psychologists are an essential service, so rural people can still find ways to do video conferences or telephone calls for help, if distance is a factor.

“And if you are dealing with abuse or there are people in your house that you don’t want to hear your conversation with a psychologist, go for a walk while doing a phone session or sit in your car for more privacy,” Goodchild states.

Remember, there are always ways around perceived hurdles. Suicide help lines or distress centres are available in every region, with 24/7 help. Or a person can call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

Holistic health measures may be beneficial for finding balance. It’s also important to keep a check on our emotional health. These days we all need to ask ourselves – are we taking on too much? If so, what can be done to prioritize? How are we coping? Can we provide ourself some comfort? Do we do that by reading a book? Or by going horseback riding?

If you need help, speaking with a physiologist can be valuable. However, it’s also important to do the things you love to do. Try a new recipe or paint. Get outside, movement is huge! Listen to music. Watch a funny TV show. Have a bubble bath. Garden. Pet some horses. Take care of yourself.

Johnny Cakes


These old fashioned pancakes are best served stacked high and with sides of Saskatoon blueberry compote or vanilla whipped cream. Sunday morning breakfast will never be the same again.

By MIKE EDGAR, Photos by TWISTED TREE PHOTOGRAPHY

Ingredients
• 1 Cup Flour
• 1 Cup Cornmeal
• 2 Eggs
• 2 1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder
• 2 Tbsp. Sugar
• 1 Tsp. Salt
• 3/4 Cup Buttermilk
• 1/2 Cup Water
• 1/3 Cup Melted Butter
• 1 Tsp. Vanilla
• 1/2 Tsp. Nutmeg
• Butter or Oil for frying.

METHOD
1. In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients; cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.
2. Mix the wet ingredients.
3. In the center of your dry ingredients, make a well and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until combined and smooth.

4. Heat a lightly oiled cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Scoop about two tablespoons each of the batter onto the skillet.
5. Fry each Johnny Cake until brown and crisp; turn with a spatula, and then brown the other side.
6. Plate and serve immediately with syrup and/or butter.

SASKATOON / BLUEBERRY COMPOTE

Ingredients
1/2 lb. Blueberries
1/2 lb. Saskatoon Berries
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

Place all ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until it has reduced by half. Let cool and serve.

VANILLA WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients
1 Cup 35% Cream
2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 Vanilla Bean, Scraped.
1/4 Cup Sugar

Scrape the inside of the vanilla bean with a knife and add to your stand-up mixer bowl with all the other ingredients. Whip until you reach stiff peaks. Serve.

Embracing Mental Wellness

With so much loss associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s easy to understand why a significant number of mental health issues started rearing their ugly heads in 2020. The good news is, horses are a healthy coping mechanism for dealing with it all. In this two-part blog, we get some meaningful advice from Psychologist Vanessa Goodchild, for navigating the world we currently live in.

BY JENN WEBSTER

Photo by BAR XP PHOTO – Hopelessness is a main symptom of depression. It’s hard to overcome. A step towards curing it is to try and reach for a feeling or curiosity of what your life could have in store for you, if you keep going forward.

The western lifestyle ideal is sometimes at odds with the concept of mental wellness. While the notion of the tough, cowboy-type is romantic, it doesn’t always bode well with modern society’s embrace of safe spaces and open-mindedness. The year 2020 was filled with so much uncertainty and when you pile that on top of pre-existing problems, it has been very difficult for some to get back on the horse, so to speak.

Even with our beautiful landscapes and spacious country abodes, rural people are not exempt from anxiety nor depression. In fact, some research suggests the prevalence of depression is slightly higher in residents of rural areas compared to that of urban locales. Adverse weather conditions, lengthy distances from support or medical attention and long-term stress can all play a role. Add that to the social distancing measures, fear and the financial strain of 2020 and there’s a lot of turmoil with which to deal. As such, we’ve enlisted the help of Vanessa Goodchild, a Registered Psychologist and the owner of Solace Psychology in Edmonton, AB. Goodchild is very aware of the nature of the inverted world we are currently living in and the strain that has caused many people.

“Any change can be stressful but with Covid-19, we’re dealing with a whole other layer of stress no one has really had to navigate before,” says Goodchild. “Stress can tie in with depression. And our stress can result from our own responses to challenging situations – not necessarily from the situation itself. So it all depends on how we perceive our ability to handle hardship or challenging situations. Our perception is the biggest thing. We all have stress right now, but it’s our perception of it that can breed hopelessness and fear about the situation.”

The good news is, it’s scientifically proven that horses (as do many pets) help release oxytocin in humans, a hormone responsible for easing stress. That’s why even just the simple act of petting a horse may make you feel happy or more secure in the world. Therefore, it begs the question – are horse people at an advantage when it comes to feeling happier? Could this be the reason many people have seemingly “clung” to their horses, as opposed to letting them go? While we understand everyone’s circumstances are different and horse people can struggle with anxiety and depression just like the rest of society, we do know there are many benefits to being part of the “horse world” that may be more important than ever.

With Goodchild’s help, we offer some tips for easing the distress of this year, finding balance or even simply reaching out to others who may be struggling.

HOW REAL IT IS

“One in five Canadians will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime,” says Goodchild.

“With depression there is certainly a biological component to it. You have a higher chance of getting depression or anxiety if your parents faced it,” the psychologist explains.

“Then there’s a psychological component: finances, debt, isolation (before isolation was required) – many of the things farmers or rural people are already dealing with. The more stressors you have and the less able you are to cope with them, plus less social connectivity, equals more chance of depression or anxiety.”

Goodchild also explains that brain chemistry and our environment can play another role in contributing to depression and anxiety.

“When we do the things that we love to do, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are released. These are what we call ‘happy hormones,’” Goodchild states.

“People with depression have reduced levels of these hormones / neurotransmitters. Research shows that coping with depression means to have a mix of therapy, medication and exercise! Any kind of movement releases dopamine and serotonin. We get an endorphin rush from it, we feel productive and accomplished. And it helps with fatigue and motivation,” she says.

Conversely, we feel less motivated and more fatigued with depression. This is why our hobbies and doing things we love to do is so important.

“If a person is struggling with anxiety or depression, they need a healthy way to cope. It’s unfortunate that depression is so common among Canadians and what’s worse is how often it gets overlooked. So I always ask my clients about their coping strategies. How do they unwind? How do they deal with stress? How do they engage in the things they love to do?

Photo by Tara McKenzie Fotos

“Getting sunshine, being active, connecting with horses and animals – those things can be really healing,” Goodchild says.

“Additionally, horses can tune into your nervous system. When you’re riding, a horse can sense your energy and tell if you’re nervous or relaxed. Horses can attune into your emotional well-being,” the psychologist explains.

The process of owning or caring for a horse also requires much responsibility. When you have horses, a lot goes into it – it’s not just about riding. Goodchild explains that caring for a horse can add to a person’s productivity.

“It requires a person to care for and nurture their horse, to show love and gratitude. It gets you out of your house and out of your work mindset. Plus for many, riding is an escape and a stress-relieving activity.”

Horses may also be a means of socialization, if you board at an outside stable or barn. Of course with lockdown restrictions in place to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19, many barns were forced to shut their doors to anyone who was not an essential caretaker of the property early in 2020. For anyone dependent on their time at the barn for exercise and as a way to relieve stress, this in itself could be very detrimental to a person’s well-being.

While it is possible to properly social distance during riding, immune-comprised or high risk individuals may choose not to partake in public barn activities at this time. That’s why it’s important to get creative about your riding activities, either by exercising at home or staying in contact with your fellow equestrians through FaceTime or phone calls. Or by trying to maintain connection in other ways. Some barns have even offered FaceTime calls for owners, with their horses – to help ease the uncertainty about an animal’s care and current health status. Worrying about a horse you own or care for, while trying to uphold social distancing measures is just another source of stress.

“Just because we’re social distancing and isolating doesn’t mean we totally have to disconnect from everything and everyone we love,” says Goodchild.

New Years 2021

By JENN WEBSTER, PHOTOS BY TWISTED TREE PHOTOGRAPHY What are you doing for New Year’s Eve? I can tell you – my family has been waiting for this day all year long… That’s not to say we expect 2021 to morph us immediately into an easier time, but we do have hope for the upcoming […]

[Continue reading…]

Making the Most of Everything

The following is an excerpt from my current Publisher’s Note in Western Horse Review. Considering the new restrictions / changes / happenings of the past week, I’ve needed to re-look at my own writing. My own history. I needed this reminder. Perhaps many of you will find it helpful too… Growing up as the young […]

[Continue reading…]

THE YEAR THAT WASN’T

BY JENN WEBSTER As we approach the end of 2020 and reflect back, it’s crazy to think about the events of the past year. In fact, some of the events were the strangest of the strange… Yet, what might be even odder is the notion that we began to accept them as normal, almost cliché. […]

[Continue reading…]

Boerderij Cheese Fondue

A ranch version of a Swiss classic. By MIKE EDGAR, PHOTOS BY TWISTED TREE PHOTOGRAPHY Celebrate the season with a big, beautiful platter of cheese, charcuterie, bread and seasonal fruits. This gooey indulgence is a festive family tradition in many households, but is a delicious treat at any time. Serve it around a holiday table […]

[Continue reading…]

Remembering our Aboriginal Veterans

BY DEBBIE MACRAE While not officially recognized by the Federal Government as National Aboriginal Veterans Day, November 8th, was inaugurated in Winnipeg in 1994 to recognize the efforts of our Indigenous Veterans and aboriginal participants. Even before the War of 1812, territorial expansion was being guarded and defended against invasion by encroaching military and political […]

[Continue reading…]

Classic Pork Chops

By Chef Mike Edgar, Photos by Twisted Tree Photography Now that meal prep is top of mind for many, here’s a pork dish that is easy to make and features a delicious cranberry touch. Thick and juicy oven-baked pork loin chops, smothered in a savoury, brandy reduction and topped with a cranberry-mustard are a wonderful […]

[Continue reading…]