When RNC Constable Kelsey Aboud found herself suffering from PTSD she thought her policing career was finished. A horse named Harvey changed all that
RNC Constable Kelsey Aboud lovingly takes Harvey through the grounds at Government House in St John’s. Curiously cautious around the delicate flowers, Harvey seems to almost tip-toe through the tulips. Aboud rides him in areas of the grounds he’s never been; a true testament to trust and affection as they both get a sense of how the other is feeling on this misty summer’s day.
Harvey, a six-year-old black male Percheron Cross, is the latest recruit to join the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s mounted unit.
A gift from one of the city’s oldest businesses, A. Harvey and Company and the Patten family, Harvey, who was born and raised in New Brunswick, measures 16.2 hands and weights about 725 kilograms.
But size doesn’t seem to matter as Aboud, 35, gently leads her partner back to the stable to dry off before interacting with some young visitors.
The relationship between the two is an interesting one, particularly because Aboud would be the first to admit that she thought she was done with the uniform after a 15-year career with the force.
Aboud, in the comfort of the stable, shares her incredible story.
“I joined the RNC at 20-years-old because I wanted to help people. I always wanted to be the helper. My parents had mixed emotions at the time; my age was so young and I would be going away from home to PEI for training,” she begins.
Aboud thrived in the force at first, spending the first 10 years of her career in various divisions; patrol, child abuse, sex offenses and major crime. But what she was dealing with on a regular basis soon took a toll.
In July of 2015, Aboud was diagnosed with PTSD. “I was off work for 18 months,” she shares candidly.
Aboud tried everything to heal. From therapy to treatment centres; if there was a possibility of getting help, she attempted it.
“Nothing seemed to be working. I honestly felt I was going to have to quit or move away from St. John’s and my triggers here and get away from what I thought was causing my PTSD.”
Aboud met with RNC Chief Joe Boland to talk about a transfer.
A Love of Animals
“He took the time and came up with the idea of me joining the Mounted Unit because he knew how much I loved animals,” she shared.
Suggesting she team up with Harvey made sense. In her spare time, Aboud operates a not-for-profit organization for senior pets called FurEver Young. She’s also a member of the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program.
“The time I was off work, animals got me through it. Rescuing animals saved my life. And now these horses, too. I truly feel this is where I’m meant to be. Everything has led me to here,” she says.
Aboud went to Toronto for rider training and had been in the saddle, so to speak, for a few weeks when The Herald visited.
“Being back to doing community service is huge. It wasn’t all easy, I’ll admit. The toughest part was getting back into the routine of the police world, but after having such a negative outlook and such bad experiences to have that complete flip; that’s the biggest positive thing. It’s been a very easy transition returning to work thanks to amazing new management and to these beautiful horses; Dr. Rich (her partner George Horan’s horse) and Harvey
The most rewarding thing about being back is helping people, and having the ability to give back, she says. With that in mind, Aboud is implementing an equine therapy program with Avalon Equestrian Centre.
“We’re partnering with them to use our horses and give back to community. I get to work with people who have PTSD, who have mental health illness; addictions and anxiety. I feel like I can relate to those people and I know those horses can help.”
Aboud courageously says she has no regrets in her life these days. “I really feel like everything happened to get me here,” she says with a smile.
Besides crediting Harvey for changing her life, Aboud has praise for the Chief of Police.
“Chief Boland is incredible. I went from having very little support, for whatever reason even, to having so much. He’s the true definition of a leader. He’s genuine and his compassion goes a long way. He’s changed my life. He saved my career.”
Speaking of the strides she made when it comes to her riding skills, Aboud says she has come so far there as well. ‘‘I was put here in January with no riding background. I just had the love and the passion. I began working in the barn. That alone was so therapeutic,” she confides.
After an intensive eight weeks of training in Toronto, where she was permitted to take her seven-year-old dog Sydney, her personal ESA (emotional support animal) along for comfort, Aboud now considers herself a rider.
“Having Sydney along was huge. I honestly didn’t think I could go by myself. She was there with me every day when I got home from training and she honestly got me through it. I don’t know if I would have had the strength on my own.”
As for being back on the job; it’s incredible, she says. “This is like nothing I’ve experienced. The horses have a gentle calmness about them. I didn’t grow up with horses but I feel a love and a bond that was easy to develop.”
Seeing how the community reacts to her and to her horse, while she’s out on patrol, is “heartwarming,” she says, holding back grateful tears.
Feeling of Pride
“Last year I never thought I’d put a uniform back on and this year I can put a uniform back on and be sat upon a horse as the public’s taking pictures of me. If you told me last year this would be my life, I wouldn’t have believed it. I didn’t see a future with the RNC at all. I was in a really bad place. So when people are stopping taking pictures, it’s a feeling of pride.”
As to why she’s sharing her story, Aboud says she feels it’s almost her calling to do so. “Some people ask me, why are you so open about this? Why are you sharing your story?
“When I first got diagnosed, I couldn’t really find anyone that I could relate to. So, I share it because I want to try and erase the stigma and show that I’m a police officer, yes, but I’m not bullet proof. I’m not full of armour. I can still be hurt. I can still go through troubles and I can still be diagnosed with a mental illness. And, I can still work with a mental illness.”
Aboud hopes to bring light to a very dark topic; living with a mental illness. “Look at this comeback for me. That’s important. I want to show I didn’t back down. I pushed through and there’s always a way.
“If you have the right people behind you, if you have the right management like in my case, people that believe in you, then there’s a way. I ended up in the best place that I could ever be.”
For more on Kelsey Aboud’s charity work, visit fureveryoungrescue.org/