People with physical or learning disabilities will be able to gain new life skills through interaction with Dartmoor ponies at a new centre.
The Ponies Inspiring People project, at Occombe Farm, Torbay, South Devon will enable disabled riders to take part in activities such as grooming, mucking out, go on guided walks and to tackle obstacle courses.
The project was set up by the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust and is primarily funded by the Clare Milne Trust and Awards for All. Recruiting of staff and volunteers is currently taking place and the first course is due to take place on 20 May.
Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust charity manager Dru Butterfield said: “There is no similar programme running in the west of England, but there is substantial proof worldwide that interaction with horses or ponies is extremely beneficial, developing emotional and physical capabilities.”
She added: “We are looking at ways of creating bonds with animals and building on life skills people already have to build their confidence and self-esteem.”
Occombe Farm, an organic farm with a strong educational remit and a year-round events programme, is a good base for the project because of its accessible location and existing good facilities for people with disabilities.
The ponies will be part of the farm’s conservation grazing scheme, helping to maintain wildlife areas in good condition and providing another interesting learning point for school groups and the wider public.