By Courtney Bell 
BELLEVILLE – If you feel in the spirit of giving this holiday season, local organizations are selling Hunks and Horses 2016 calendars  for a good cause.
The calendar features photographs of local men – most of them shirtless – with horses from Frankford-area farms.
This is the first year that Hunks and Horses calendars have been done locally. They are a fundraising project for the program Freedom Reins  – which uses horses to help people with mental-health issues – and for the Quinte/St. Lawrence branch of the Canadian Amateur Dressage Owners and Riders Association .
Georgina Jones, treasurer of the dressage association, said it is a good way to get the community to support the programs.
“Lots of people like looking at good-looking men and beautiful horses,” she said.
The calendar features Loyalist College students Zack Smith and Cody Travers, along with many other local hunks. The photos were taken by Mary White of Lone Oak Equine Photography  and Jeannie Gane .
The calendars are $20 each and can be purchased at Greenhawk Harness and Equestrian Supplies in Stirling, Peterborough Tack, Pro One Stop in Stirling and the Freedom Reins office in Trenton.
Freedom Reins assists participants struggling with mental-health, behaviour and communication issues through time spent working with horses, Jones said.
“With the stigma of mental-health issues being much less than it was before, people are talking about it, accepting that they have issues out there,” she said.
“It is very helpful to have something like this in our community (at a) very minimal cost for participants.”
Jones, who is retired after 31 years with the military, opened up about her own struggle with depression. She said she decided to team up with Freedom Reins because she wanted to make a difference in the community and help other people deal with their mental-health issues.
“I’ve always had animals – horses and dogs – and in some of my down time I take my dogs for a walk and talk to them. It’s very non-threatening … Animals, especially horses, are very much in the moment. They don’t bring any baggage with them. They react very well to your emotions and your feelings, so they can sense if you’re having a bad day.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association  estimates that 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness. The total number of 12- to 19-year-olds in Canada at risk of developing depression is 3.2 million, it says. Help can make a difference for 80 per cent of people who are affected, the association says.