Our new charitable partnership – Racing Hearts

We recently spoke with Lisa Coffey, Racing Hearts founder, who described the work that the organisation undertakes to improve the lives of retired racehorses and young people across Victoria – a pursuit that is particularly close to our hearts.

Following the announcement of The Darley, we wanted to pay homage to the iconic history of Flemington and actively give back to the community. We couldn’t think of a better charitable organisation to partner with than Racing Hearts.

Founded by former jockey and qualified counsellor Lisa Coffey, Racing Hearts is a not-for-profit organisation that offers a new pathway for retired racehorses and provides Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) to young people recovering from traumatic experiences. The revolutionary mental health support services offered by Racing Hearts are one-of-a-kind in Australia.

“Combining retired racehorses and mental health was a real no-brainer for me, especially for the horses that had such limited options, in terms of their physical ability,” said Lisa.

"This is a great option for them because retired racehorses are phenomenal at this kind of work."

Lisa is quick to draw comparisons between horses and humans when it comes to patterns of behaviour. Like humans, if a horse has experienced trauma in the past, it will learn a way to deal with it.

“A horse that has experienced fear or pain in a horse float will then require rehabilitation to establish a safe environment for them.”

“People are the same. If they’ve experienced trauma in the past, they will have adopted a coping mechanism to support them through it. We help them to identify the past trauma and adaptive behaviours surrounding it. We then try to help them form a new or healthier behaviour,” explained Lisa.

One of the greatest challenges that Lisa and her team face when treating horses is that horses don’t have the mental capacity to reflect on the past. They simply live in the moment.

“We focus on the present patterns the horses are showing us. We don’t worry about the past or make assumptions about what has happened. We just deal with what we’ve got,” said Lisa.

With people, Lisa says that the best possible treatment is done proactively. The earlier that an individual in need receives support, the better chance they have of making a positive change in their lives. This is achieved by learning how to navigate their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

“I love working with young people, especially through our primary school and VCAL programs. We show them that the world is their oyster, and they have support from both our qualified mental health professionals and the horses,” said Lisa

“Young people are so aware of themselves and how their bodies and mind work. They’re able to exercise their boundaries, make healthier choices and keep themselves safe in terms of relationships in their life moving forward.”

This treatment is heavily dependent on the client actively participating. By bonding with the counsellors and the horses through tailored programs, they have the opportunity to build a strong, trusting relationship.

As for how Racing Hearts can continue to provide these important programs, Lisa said that one of the best ways to contribute is through financial donations.

“When we have funds in the charity, we can offer our services for free to clients who can’t afford it or don’t qualify for funding,” explained Lisa.

Therefore, Pace has pledged to contribute $500 from every apartment sale at The Darley – which is predicted to be in excess of $80,000. More importantly, we strive to bring further awareness to the hard work of Lisa and her team at Racing hearts through our partnership.

“People like Lisa really inspire us at Pace,” said our Sales and Marketing Director, Ashley Bramich.

"Her commitment towards issues such as equine welfare and mental health are aligned with our values, and her vision of making a difference is something we are really excited about."

There are other great ways that people can help. Simply spreading the word can provide exposure to support services, like EAT, for young people who would significantly benefit from the work that Racing Hearts does.

“We also have a fabulous volunteer program for anyone who is in the Mornington or Pakenham area. We’re always looking for volunteers with horse experience and can assist with our group programs during the week,” said Lisa.

“Even in terms of people who can do gardening for us, help feed the horses or general cleaning on the farm. At the end of the day, every bit helps.”

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