Horses at centre of new wellbeing programme

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Participants in the wellbeing programme work with a pony. Each session involves physical activities which help to care for the rescued horses and ponies.
Participants in the Exercise with Equines programme work with a pony. Each session involves physical activities which help to care for the rescued horses and ponies. © The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

An equine charity in Britain has launched a new equine-assisted wellbeing programme for women and girls aged 16 and over.

Funded by Sport England as part of the This Girl Can campaign, the Exercise with Equines programme at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary will have up to 36 women and girls spending time outdoors and learning the basics of horse care, while actively working with rescued horses and ponies who have been specially chosen to work with people.

Participants are working with horses and ponies at the sanctuary’s Equestrian and Education Centre near Newton Abbot. 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.

Dawn Neil, the sanctuary’s Head of Education, said that it was hoped 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.

“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 whilst also being active.”

Each session involves physical activities which help to care for the rescued horses and ponies. The women and girls will learn about basic stable and field management, grooming and filling hay nets.

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.

A participant in the Exercise with Equines programme grooms Cas, one of the resident ponies at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary.
A participant in the Exercise with Equines programme grooms Cas, one of the resident ponies at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary. © The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

Benefits of this kind of physical activity include improved heart and lung strength as well as better posture, balance, co-ordination, flexibility and muscle tone. Being active in this way can also be a perfect pick-me-up, putting a smile back on the face and lifting the mood. Being outdoors is proven to reduce stress and anxiety and gives us more energy to put back into life.

Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign is aimed at encouraging physical activity amongst women and girls. It supports national goals around increasing physical movement amongst under-represented groups as well as helping people return to activity after lockdown. The sessions will run in blocks of six weeks until October, 2022.

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