Cha cha steps lively as Sophie rides the pony express

Sophie and Justine

Cha cha steps lively as Sophie rides the pony express

JULY 2015 | Joanne Eisemann

IT IS AN icy day in Westbury, with sleet periodically dropping the temperature even lower, but the young ones involved in the Ponyz4kidz program run by Tasmania Police at Westbury Primary School are still keen to participate.

The brainchild of Constable Justine Hartam, the program first ran two years ago and is running this year throughout term two.

“I started two years ago and it was just fantastic. I just got so much enjoyment and so many positives from the kids,” Justine shares.

She has been with the police force for twenty-one years. With her most recent work in the Youth Division, her boss had asked her to come up with a program aimed at primary aged children.

The result is one with the general aim of building positive relationships between the police and kids, so that when they get older and facing challenges, they will feel okay to contact the cops.

“Kids get the idea that Police are there to help (and) not just to arrest people when bad things happen” comments Justine.

She has also designed tasks for kids to work with ponies that encourage confidence, trust and most of all fun as “a different form of learning.”

Working with groups of three, her rapport with children is obvious and infectious as she carefully tutors them in the fine art of horse handling.

The kids are asked to take their ponies through various exercises such as putting their feet in rings, jumping small jumps, and being led over and through obstacles such as trees and mounds.

“It’s a safe way for kids to be doing something a little different (as) some of the real tiny ones won’t even go near the horse to start with (while) the older kids with more confidence will go off on an adventure together with the ponies,” shares Justine.

Her mum, also a pony lover, comes along to give her a hand each week. On the day Meander Valley Gazette visited, Justine had brought a small sulky along and was beginning to teach participants on how to ‘drive’ Cha Cha, one of three ponies present that day.

 Mike Moores