Therapy centre that uses horses to help people recover in the running to secure £50k in funding
The Spirit and Soul Equine Assisted Activity Centre, which helps cancer patients and women with complex needs recover through the use of horses, is among a number of organisations competing for votes in the National Lottery’s Peoples’ Project scheme.
Designed to support people on their recovery journey, the horses help enrich people’s lives by allowing them to experience self-exploration, personal growth and boosted confidence. The Centre can aid people with a range of difficulties, such as trauma, illness, low confidence, life dilemmas and stress.
Courses at the Centre usually run for six to 10 weeks.
Sarah Stevens founded the unique therapy centre after being diagnosed with breast cancer two and a half years ago; a diagnosis which changed her life.
She told the Horse & Hound: “I started noticing the impact it was having my own horses and then I started working on methods of how horses could help people. The non-judgmental, label-free environment they create encourages people to work on themselves.”
The Spirit and Soul Equine Assisted Activity Centre frequently works alongside charity MacMillan, but also takes on private clients, working with NHS occupational therapy teams, back-to-work initiatives and local organisations.
Sarah continued: “We structure activities, learn problem-solving and team working. The horse is there to tell us how regular our emotions are and help people to learn about themselves.
“There are three facets to how they can help. One is the non-judgement — as much as people say they don’t judge others, they do, and people don’t feel that judgement around horses.
“Another is how they react instantly, in the moment, so you have to respond there and then. The other facet is that you’re getting outside in nature, which is often better for people than sitting in a room and reeling off information about your life to a therapist.”
Sarah said the Centre also offers the opportunity to find roles for horses that have problems and that many of the animals there had been unsuitable for ridden careers. She added that the issues the horses had faced often resonate with her clients.
“All our horses have a back story and often it works better when people can empathise with the horse,” she said. “We have a lovely part-bred Arab mare who was passed from pillar to post as there was obviously something wrong with her back. She had gone through 15 different homes before she came here, she did some work with a girl in foster care who had lots of different homes and they just instantly connected and bonded.”
The National Lottery’s People’s Project scheme allows individuals to vote for the organisation that they believe deserves £50,000 in funding to improve their local area.
The Spirit and Soul Equine Assisted Activity Centre is one of 95 organisations shortlisted throughout the UK.
“We’d love to use the money to cater for people who want to work with us but can’t,” Sarah concluded. “We’d like to provide more transport options — as that is often one of the biggest barriers — and also look at more mobile provision, such as round pens, so we can take the horses to people.”