New scheme to boost wellbeing through horse-human connection

  • An equine rescue charity is helping to bring the power of the horse-human connection to more people with a new wellbeing programme.

    The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, near Newton Abbot, has launched a new equine assisted wellbeing initiative, funded by Sport England as part of the This Girl Can campaign, called “Exercise with Equines”.

    The saying goes that the “outside of a horse good for the inside of a man”, and improving mental wellbeing and a return to activity after the challenges of the pandemic and repeated lockdowns are big parts of the scheme’s aim. There is also the “win-win factor” of supporting a charity and horses’ welfare, as well as the mental and physical pluses for humans that come with caring for horses.

    “Although many women are active in equestrian sports already, we wanted to attract women and girls who may never have had the opportunity to interact with equines before and introduce them to the physical and mental benefits,” said Dawn Neil, head of education at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary.

    “Since Covid, many people have struggled with their mental wellbeing and are less active than they used to be. We can offer a safe, supportive space that allows participants to recharge mentally while also being active.”

    The initiative involves up to 36 women and girls (aged 16 and above) spending time outdoors learning the basics of horse care and actively working with rescued horses and ponies, who have been carefully selected to work with people.

    “The equines come from a range of backgrounds, but all enjoy spending time with humans. Both people and horses are supported in the sessions by members of staff dedicated to their wellbeing,” said a spokesman for the charity.

    “Each session involves physical activities, which help to care for the rescued horses and ponies. [The participants] will learn about basic stable and field management, grooming and filling haynets.

    “Sessions also include focused time working with the rescued horses and ponies through gentle activity supported by an accredited professional coach. This might involve in-hand walks around the site, basic leading and agility work or long-reining in the indoor arena.”

    Sessions will run in blocks of six weeks until October 2022.

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