Equine intervention offered to frontline “Covid heroes”

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UK federation members of Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI) joined forces to launch the new #HopeForCovidHeroes initiative.
UK federation members of Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI) joined forces to launch the new #HopeForCovidHeroes initiative. Photo by shridingclub

Frontline workers in Britain affected by the Covid-19 pandemic are being offered equine-facilitated intervention in a new scheme that aims to help more than 4000 paramedics, nurses, teachers, carers, police and others.

UK federation members of Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI) joined forces to launch the new #HopeForCovidHeroes initiative. An initial pilot will deliver the specialist horse intervention programme of ground and mounted sessions to up to 50 frontline workers over the next six months. It will run in at least eight counties, with a view to expanding nationally to reach thousands of frontline workers. It is now looking for frontline workers to get in touch if they are interested in taking part.

Members of HETI (UK) believe that spending time with horses in nature helps improve a person’s wellbeing and studies undertaken show equines provide strong emotional support.

The members have teams ready to offer equine-facilitated intervention to frontline workers affected by working through the pandemic at a time when they are exhausted. Gul Outdoor Therapy has already started, and the Mare and Foal Sanctuary aims to commence sessions from July.

Dr Celia Grummitt from Gul Outdoor Therapy, who is leading the HETI (UK) initiative says: “We know that frontline workers are experiencing overload and exhaustion, and this may worsen as the pandemic continues.

“We are looking to provide an effective horse-based intervention to allow accrued fatigue and unprocessed memories of very challenging work through the pandemic to begin to be processed.

“Evidence shows us that equines help us to process our emotions. Spending time with a horse can give frontline workers timeout to reconnect with themselves through connecting with horses and ponies and their sentient and sensitive interactions. These animals mirror emotions and moods and help people notice their own emotions, so allowing processing to take place.”

Newly qualified teacher Jessica is one of the first frontline workers to benefit from the equine-facilitated intervention through Gul Outdoor Therapy, where she worked with a clinician who used the centre’s Highland mare, Kirsty, to help. The time, space and opportunity to think things through whilst working in Kirsty’s peace-giving space has been transformative, Jessica said.

The #HopeForCovidHeroes initiative has transformed her mental health and given her tools to cope with what seemed an ever-increasing task providing essential care to young people. She says: “It felt as if I was carrying the weight of so many people, and now I am being carried.”

The #HopeForCovidHeroes initiative is organised and provided through HETI UK’s participating members: God Unlimited Outdoor Therapy (Gul), Mare and Foal Sanctuary, Chartered Physiotherapists in Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy (CPTRH), Riding for the Disabled Associated (RDA), Horseback UK and Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy (FCRT).

» Frontline workers interested in applying for an equine-facilitated intervention session need to contact the #HopeForCovidHeroes project team at hopeforcovidheroes@god-unlimited.org.

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