This incredible charity uses horses to bring people happiness
In recent years, attitudes towards health and wellness have changed. New avenues of treatment and therapy have been explored, especially for chronic conditions and emotional struggles - some with exceptional success.
And one of those is equine therapy.
Equine therapy employs the use of horses to bring happiness and improved health to people who would benefit from the emotional connection that these wonderful animals offer.
"Horses have a very social nature: they are herd animals and, like many prey animals, have a heightened sense of awareness of the rest of their herd," explains Project CELT, a charity based at the Clwyd Special Riding Centre that pairs people in need with a four-legged friend.
As they explain:
"Horses interact with herd members in an honest and congruent manner, responding to the slightest change in emotion, energy levels, behaviour, focus or intention and will then reflect this information back to us. They live entirely in the present, or for a better phrase, 'in the moment' and offer us forgiveness, patience and another chance when we get things wrong."
Beth Lewis is just one person who has benefitted from the wonderful horses (and people!) at CELT.
"Before I came here I had depression – quite serious depression," explained the 27-year-old, who was born with a serious craniofacial condition. "I was a very nervous person and wouldn’t speak to anybody. I became quite distant from the world. I didn’t deal with my disability very well."
She continued: "As a child I was giggly and happy – I lived life. But in my late teens I was struggling with the way I looked and all the operations that I was having. It was really hard for me and my parents." She became shy and introverted, and did not really speak to anyone outside her immediate social circle.
Beth actually had some experience with horse riding, as she had participated in the activity as a child. Unfortunately, a fall had left her feeling anxious about getting back in the saddle for years afterwards - but CELT had just the thing to help with that.
Thanks to the charity, she now lives on site and volunteers with other riders and horses, and has progressed in her riding abilities so much that she was able to compete in the RDA championships (riding for the disabled association) last year. And, at the same time, she's seen a huge development in her confidence and positive attitude. This is such a significant change to where she was in her life before, and she wouldn't have been able to do it without the love and support of CELT.
Here is Beth, talking about her experience in her own words:
As well as the Centre’s 26 horses, Project CELT has a mechanical horse available to riders. As well as helping people like Beth, who need to regain their confidence before riding again, the equipment also helps to train new riders, or provide a safe environment to those who might otherwise be at risk if they started with the real deal.
Equine manager Pam Jones says blind army veterans and children with severe learning disabilities are just two of the groups that have benefitted from using the mechanical horse. As well as its therapeutic value – "it helps with muscle tone and core stability" – the simple act of getting into the saddle can boost a person’s confidence and lift their spirits.
"For a wheelchair user, for example, the horse can be their legs," said Pam. "On a horse they get to make eye contact or look down after years of looking up."
A lot of hard work and dedication goes into CELT, but it does not go unnoticed by the many people who enjoy its services.
"Riding gives me a purpose and lets me thrive," Beth said. "It makes me come alive in so many ways. If I’m having a bad day and I’m grumpy, I go up to the stables and give Mouse [her favourite horse] a cuddle. It just changes me."
CELT recently received funding from the National Lottery Fund, which allowed them to develop a new learning and therapy room, barn and round pen. With continued support like this, they can go on to help many more people like Beth.
Sponsored article in association with The National Lottery Good Causes