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Healing power through horses in Warwick

People living in our housing in Warwick have been helping to heal thanks to the immense power and understanding of horses.

Residents have been helped to get their lives back on track through equine therapy provided through The Horse and People Project CIC – and have reported wonderful results.

We were able to access funding to help support people who are living in our housing. Many of these have been through significant trauma in their lives and are living with complex issues such as addiction and poor mental health.

Louise Gillard-Owen, a retired nurse who set up the Coventry-based Horse and People Project with her friend Kate Porretta, with the aim of harnessing the well-documented healing power of horses to help vulnerable adults and children, explained the ethos behind the therapy.

She said:

Horses are herd animals and as such, they monitor their environment continually to keep themselves safe in the wild.

They pick up signals from our body language. They respond to whatever they perceive from us as humans. That gives us a big clue as to how we are presenting to them, which makes us more self-aware.

When we meet a horse, that horse is checking us out just as much as we are checking them out.

We see a huge emotional response from people we help when they feel accepted by this massive animal who could easily walk away from them but chooses to stay with that person. Particularly people who have had adverse childhood events themselves, suffering from abuse and trauma, that’s absolutely massive, because they may feel they haven’t been accepted by anyone before, and they are being accepted by this huge creature. It seems to unblock something for a lot of people.

Derventio Housing Trust residents have been taking part in weekly sessions involving horses, featuring a range of activities. None of these involve riding, but instead require participants to interact with horses, for example by leading them around obstacle courses.

Louise said the remarkable way that horses pick up on humans’ tension can really help people struggling with issues – such as poor mental health – by supporting them in self-regulating their emotions. Interaction with horses can also help people see different ways of reacting to situations, enabling them to see the consequences of certain ways in which they may behave.

One Derventio resident described as particularly vulnerable, astonished project leaders when a horse accompanied her around a whole obstacle course without being led.

Louise said:

That horse stuck to this lady’s side all the way round, and even sped up with her. We’ve never seen that before.

There has been a lot of research that horses can reduce anxiety and really calm us down, even reducing our pulse rate.

People tell us at the end of a session that they feel alive, and have more hopes about their future.

Derventio Housing Trust residents filled out questionnaires before and after their equine therapy sessions, reporting a much more positive outlook on life at the end of them.

One resident said:

During my experience here at equine therapy I have grown in understanding myself, taking away new tools to use at home or wherever to help further my development within myself.

Derventio Housing Trust provides accommodation to people who have been made homeless, and then provides support through weekly visits and a wide programme of support from caring staff and outside agencies to help people with their needs.

Ben Ludford, Derventio’s assistant director for housing and support in Warwickshire, said:

Our equine therapy sessions are just one of the ways we are trying to support  clients. People we help have often been through some extremely challenging situations that most people will never experience. Not only have they been through the trauma of homelessness, they have also often suffered in many other ways too. It’s remarkable to see how horses can have such a positive effect in helping people we house to move on from the tough times and have hope for the future.

Derventio Housing Trust would like to be able to help many more people in Warwickshire find homes after homelessness, but needs more landlords in order to do so. Any property owners interested in finding out more about leasing accommodation through Derventio in Warwickshire should contact Ben Ludford on ben.ludford@derventiohousing.com