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Equine therapy centre offers free sessions for key workers after lockdown

An equine therapy centre is hoping to offer free sessions for NHS and keyworkers dealing with Covid-19-related trauma once lockdown is lifted.

Follyfoot Horses, based near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, usually treats a range of clients from recovering cancer patients to women in refuges, people on drug and alcohol programmes and children with behavioural issues.

Founder Sophie Morris said the centre was currently closed because of the pandemic but she wanted to start fundraising now so that sessions could be offered to keyworkers for free once they reopened.

The community interest company was initially set up by Sophie and her sister Claire Friend in 2013 following Claire’s diagnosis with cancer.

“Initially we set up to help other cancer patients and it went from there, and now we see a wide range of people,” said Sophie, whose background is in social work.

“Recently, we had the idea to set something up for those keyworkers that will need some support after all of this is over. I think for many of them it will be a bit like cancer patients — in the middle of treatment, with lots of hospital appointments they are OK but once the treatment stops they are left with some kind of PTSD or trauma because of what they have gone through. When they’re fighting it, they cope, it’s afterwards that the affects hit hard.”

The centre has started a fundraiser, all the proceeds of which will be used for NHS and keyworkers to access sessions.

“We know horses are good for therapy and it’s a nice way for people to get support without being judged or having to face therapists in a clinical setting,” Sophie added.

Sophie said the sessions would probably take a similar format to those for people in cancer recovery, which are held in groups so people also have the benefit of being able to share their experiences.

While Sophie and the facilitators running the sessions are not therapists, they use the horses as “non-judgmental mirrors” to help clients learn about themselves and their energy.

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There are currently six horses at the centre, which has so far managed to stay afloat during the Covid-19 crisis, despite having to close to clients. The impact has been felt not only by the centre but also the people it helps.

“We had one young person who was in the middle of a course with us with high-level needs, she was not in school and at crisis point. She was working quite intensely with us and it all had to stop,” Sophie said.

“We always run a course for the women’s refuge over the summer and, as a former social worker, the whole situation with domestic violence at the moment scares me. It’s a worry to think about the kids stuck in abusive households. The sooner we can open our doors and offer some help to people, the better.”

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