An equine therapy centre on lockdown has been awarded a National Lottery grant of more than £230,000.
The Way of the Horse Discovery Centre in Leicestershire supports people with mental health problems including acute stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder using horse therapy. The centre will use the grant of £237,045 to fund three years of “Project Pony” courses, which are aimed at both children and adults.
Dina Shale, who runs the centre, is keen to hear from people who need support and are on NHS waiting lists for treatment for mental health disorders, behaviour problems or depression.
“We have been running programmes for all age groups for five years and it works,” she said.
“It is a real shame we have closed because our therapy would be a big help in these difficult times. We are looking for people to help. They may be lost in the world, need support to bring some stability back in their lives and develop new thought patterns and strategies.”
The centre has been operating for five years and as well as supporting people, gives homes to neglected horses.
“When the abused and badly treated horses come to us they have given up and lost their spirit. When the people who arrive at our stable in need of help, they are often exactly the same. They have often given up with their lives,” said Dina.
“We help these people have a purpose in life and work on gaining the trust of the rescue horses too. Just like our animals, they are taken on a journey of recovery.”
Dina said the National Lottery team was “wonderful”.
“They looked at what we achieved during a pilot scheme between August and Christmas last year. Having seen our specialist staff in action and the difference we make to people’s lives, they agreed to fund our courses,” she said.
Leigh Moore took part in the Project Pony experience in September 2019 and said the programme “changed her life”.
“I went to Dina for help with anxiety and to help me deal with past traumas. When we started the programme, I had no ideas what my triggers were to make me anxious. The programme helped me figure them out. Thanks to Dina, I now have techniques in place to help me deal with my mental health,” she said.
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“The best thing is being with Dina’s lovely horses who really respond to you. When I wasn’t feeling that grand, the horses would know.”
Dina added the Project Pony is a valuable programme that teaches people how to change lifelong habits and learn coping strategies.
“Anyone who has never been around horses will enjoy it as there is so much to learn. We want people to come on board with us and realise we offer something powerful and unique,” she said.
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