‘Something in my Heart’: Trauma survivors find healing in 10th Horse of Light story
More than 105 years after their ancestors fought on the shores of Gallipoli in World War I, a group of Western Australians are recovering from the traumas of modern times, thanks to their shared interest in military history.
These survivors of abuse, anxiety and depression find unexpected solace in commemorating the soldiers of the 10th Light Horse Regiment who fought for Australia.
They have gained so much from their membership in the 10th Kelmscott-Pinjarra Light Horse Memorial Troop that they are now looking to develop an equine healing center for returning servicemen and their families.
Geraldton’s wife, Natasha Pearce, was 14 when she first took an interest in her family’s military past. His beloved grandfather was dead and his grandmother gave him one of the military medals he cherished.
Taking the medal in her hand, she was amazed.
She then discovered that the medal belonged to one of the two parents who had fought in World War I with the 10th Light Horse.
One of them, Donald McLean, had died at the Battle of the Nek in Gallipoli in 1915.
The other, Fletcher Brand, survived.
Many years and a series of abuse have left Ms. Pearce with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSS).
While battling the associated depression, she watched a TV report from a woman talking about the Waler horse breed who had served with the 10th Light Horse.
“I felt something in my heart,” Ms. Pearce said.
“Seeing this person in the Light Horse uniform representing my family, it just filled me with tears and joy and I wanted to be a part of it.”
This woman was Verna Holmes of the 10th Kelmscott-Pinjarra Light Horse Memorial Troop, who then founded a Greenough section.
Ms Holmes had also suffered physical and mental trauma and the resulting PTSS and the two bonded through their love of the 10th Light Horse Regiment, horses and shared experiences.
Helping “ dysfunctional ” functioning well
“The 10th Light Horse, we are a dysfunctional bunch of people, we all have PTSD, anxiety, depression,” Ms. Holmes said.
“I like to joke that we are a dysfunctional bunch of people who work incredibly well with the bond we have between us.”
Mrs. Holmes was drawn to the 10th Light Horse for its use of the breed of horses called “walers”.
She was fascinated by their role in the war, devastated that the soldiers were forced to leave their mounts behind and took on the task of breaking her own waler.
“Animals seem to accept you for who you are, warts and everything,” she says.
“They don’t care how you look, what you’ve done, what you have and what you don’t.
“And when you’re at your lowest point, they pull you out – you’ve got to deal with it.”
“There are days when you just can’t get out of bed, you can’t operate, you can’t feed yourself, but you do it for your horse.”
They have gained so much from their involvement with the Light Horse Memorial Troupe that the Kelmscott-Pinjarra Chapter is now looking to develop an Equine Therapy Center for returning men and women and their families.
“We would just like to create a space where people can relax, sit and talk, and feel the comfort that you can get from horses, from dogs,” Ms. Holmes said.