Nicola’s Story of the Month – November

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The Healing Power of Horses

Great leaders have recognised the power horses have to heal and educate humans. From Alexander the Great to Eisenhower and Winston Churchill who famously said: ‘There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.’

I have limited experience of horses, although my sister Diana rode when we were children, my interest was hockey (another story, another time). Diana has had several horses over the years and now has a beautiful mare called Mary. They have a bond and Diana has total trust in Mary to bring her home safely.

I asked friends Lucie and Penny, who have horses, for their thoughts to assist me with this blog, they said:

  • “They are the best cure for stress EVER! If I need to unwind I know precious moments with my girls will chill me out!”
  •  “I have seen children who find it difficult to communicate and interact with others behave completely differently when on a horse, they become chatty – the smile on their face says it all!”
  •  “The smell of them – if someone could bottle that there would be no need for Prozac!”
  • “We’ve become used to witnessing the most dramatic transformation in people’s well-being after the briefest of encounters.”

At New Life Horse Care (NLHC) they have proven the healing power of horses. When Tom* a 19 year old, who left college prematurely because he was bullied for his autism came to NLHC, he did not speak, was overweight and unhealthy. At the NLHC they taught Tom horsemanship, with responsibilities of maintaining paddocks and looking after ponies. After a time he was given more responsibility, with foals and assisting other learners. He slowly began to lose weight and communicate. Two years on Tom is healthy, communicative, and has excellent skills, enabling him to assist with disabled children. 

There is scientific research that explains what happens during these healing encounters. Horses are believed to influence the heart rates of humans while the motion of riding stimulates brain activity that accelerates learning.

There is much that horses can teach us that we have yet to discover, not least about perceiving the emotions of those around us. The behaviour of horses seems to reflect whatever is appropriate for those around them, be that their companion horses, or humans.

DCF provided NLHC with a grant of £950 from the Devonian Trust, which offers support for those with mobility issues, to purchase two safety saddles and a safety helmet, making a world of difference for young people who have disabilities, helping them to ride without fear of falling.

NLHC provides young people with a better chance at life, improving opportunities and empowering confidence. But the ripples in the pond go far wider. As with Tom’s story where it has not only improved his life style, health and wellbeing, it has also had a positive effect for his family.

NLHC are not an organisation to sit on their laurels, or should that be haunches! They are working on Stay Safe Horsemanship, Equine Therapy, a ground breaking project, which has NEVER been done before. This unique project is intended to change attitudes in this sector and to give hope to families who have children with special needs and disabilities.

At DCF we have helped community projects who use the power of animals, specifically horses to heal people. For me, bringing children and animals together will always bring a lump to my throat. In writing this have learnt a lot about the gift of horses: ready to give powerful lessons to mankind, if we are ready to listen and learn.

*Name changed