By soarvalleywestern, Jun 24 2017 10:24AM

Our daughter, Chloe, is seven and she has diagnoses of autism, ADHD (inattentive type), dyspraxia, sensory processing disorder, chronic anxiety and joint hypermobility. Chloe has had fortnightly sessions at Horses for Causes for over two years.

Since we began our journey with Sharon and her team, Chloe has always been very well supported and her additional needs have been embraced. During a period of particularly low self-esteem, Sharon worked with Chloe on dealing with her emotions, at our request. Being able to express her feelings whilst on horseback worked well for Chloe and enabled her to feel safe. Sharon knows what Chloe needs from the session and she is very in tune with Chloe, letting her set the pace. Chloe gets lots of sensory input from the itinerary, which includes preparing feeds and grooming as well as riding. Sharon has a super comfy sensory saddle which Chloe loves to use. Chloe’s sense of balance has improved since she has been riding and she is at her most relaxed and communicative when on horseback.

As Chloe’s parents, there are times when we have needed support. Sharon offered to prepare a report for us based on her observations of Chloe when she was off her ADHD medication on a trial basis, at the request of school. The report highlighted Chloe’s difficulties around concentration and ability to focus on a task without her medication. This was something that we had already verbalised concerns about and it was helpful to have a professional opinion. The trial was cut short after two weeks and Chloe now has the medication she needs to help make daily life less challenging for her.

I would recommend Horses for Causes to anyone who has a child with any additional need. Sharon is very calm and her warm nature motivates the children with gentle encouragement.

By soarvalleywestern, Jul 28 2016 08:27AM

Do you ever feel as though there isn’t anywhere to go… you’re completely at the end of your tether and don’t know where to turn?

I got to this point; I was willing to try anything out of pure desperation. This is where the amazing equine therapy came in. I had struggled with severe anxiety and depression and although I was already receiving Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and help from Macmillan, I felt as though something else was needed.

Then I saw on the TV the amazing work that animals can do for us humans, especially horses. Google brought up this small, but incredible place and the best bit of all, they were happy to see me straight away. I was very skeptical that it would work, but as I said, I was desperate - it NEEDED to. However, walking up to the gate I knew instantly that this place would be for me. I had the warmest greeting by Sharon and Lorraine and the lovely dogs. I felt a connection instantly. I already felt better, and couldn’t wait to start my therapy.

Just being with the horses, and the way that you instantly connected with them and the staff just told me that there was hope. After minutes I felt comfortable, it was like I had been there for years. I was introduced to the mental health specialist Debbie, who would be working with me and I instantly knew she would be someone I could open up to. I’ve had previous experience with two awful mental health specialists which made me incredibly worried about seeking help, but Debbie is so warming and kind in the ways she speaks to you and her gentle approach to talking therapy.

Skipping forward to future therapy sessions made me realize the incredible amount that I had put on myself from having uncontrollable fear, having to be in control, carrying unnecessary baggage etc. The horses mirror our emotions, which taught me very quickly how to react and feel about different situations. They interact with humans in a way that I never believed possible; they enabled me to see clearly the problems that I had been taunting myself with for so long. But when you watch and see that you can easily put your problems on to the horse, and then look at the horse’s behavior instead of thinking about yourself, it becomes incredibly easy to see what is happening and situations are suddenly a lot easier to talk about. Then metaphors and the realization that the problems that you have noticed are the ones you’ve been hiding for so long suddenly surfaces and the weight has finally been lifted. The different activities were simple, fun and very very effective - from dragging one of the 10 horses with ‘baggage’ around an assault course to looking in to the significance of the letter F or simply grooming a horse and seeing the effect it has on your emotions.

I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for 3 years due to having leukemia previously. It wasn’t until I found the stables that I finally found hope in a way that I never thought was possible. It’s allowed me to be me again. I get excited about the next session; the next time I can see the horses and the team and to finally get out of the house (which hasn’t been possible, for months at a time).

Both Sharon and Lorraine understand the problems each of their clients have, they don’t judge, but are determined to help in anyway possible. I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t have had their help and the help from the resident beloved equines – it has changed my life for the better. I can’t wait to start volunteering in a place that I now feel very comfortable in. It’s an incredibly interesting subject and something that is so simple has a powerful outcome. I couldn’t recommend this service enough. So Sharon, Lorraine and Debbie, thank you for giving me my life back!

By soarvalleywestern, Jun 12 2015 03:32PM

During a recent trip to Huddersfield I was reminded of an EAGALA event that took place at Derby Equestrian College where attendees had a snip of advanced training and the use of metaphors during an Equine Assisted Learning exercise. The trip was long and tedious. It was fraught with upsets and I hoped that the workshop scheduled for the following day would go smoothly. I had some idea of what was planned but nothing had really been set in stone.

Staying overnight in a beautiful stone cottage surrounded by rolling hills, fields and horses was EAH-equine assisted heaven or for me a haven. Looking out of the bedroom window I saw a large horse nibbling the fence. When the horse saw my face at the window it stopped momentarily then carried on gnawing. An equine specialist seeing a horse crib biting would automatically think of boredom or stress. Through EAGALA’s eyes what did I see? Frustration - the horse was frantically biting and gnawing, teeth on wood. It stopped again and looked to the left where a smaller brown pony, eating the grass, had turned away from the larger one. It didn’t seem interested in the large one, oblivious to its presence. The large horse returned to the eating the fence. A few moments passed then it made its way over to the brown pony. Unhappy with its presence the brown pony swished its tail and lifted a hind leg as if to warn the horse away. It lifted its head and turned to look at the horse. With ears pinned back the warning was clear -‘stay away-I don’t want you in my space’. The large horse stood and waited, then walked a few paces behind as the little brown pony walked away still swishing its tail. I wondered what the large horse had done to deserve being ousted by the little brown pony. Why was the little brown pony being so aggressive and mean? What had the large horse done to be treated with such contempt?

I continued to watch as the two wandered over to a nearby gate. The large horse walked alongside the small brown pony its tail still swishing and ears still pinned back. They turned their heads together nose to nose. There was no malice or squealing. There was no fighting but an acceptance of each other, a tolerance perhaps. It was as if the little brown pony was saying ‘I will share my space but on my terms only’ and other horse accepted that.

As nature called it was time for a trip to the bathroom. Another window looked out into a field with more horses. I was starting to enjoy this trip after all.

Two large cobby type horses stood in the shade of a tree enjoying the early morning sunshine at their fore legs and hooves, two miniature ponies were lying down, their legs and hooves tucked underneath them. I wondered how something so big could be trusted not to tread on something so small and not just one horse or pony but two of each of equal size. How did the miniatures communicate that they wanted to share the same shady spot? How did they make the large cobs aware of the spot they wished to lie in? I was witnessing the huge amount of mutual respect that had been established among this little herd.

I started to look forward to the day ahead. I would be meeting a wide variety of attendees, some therapists and some horsey people. What a coincidence that the agenda for the day was based on communication and trust. I had not seen the agenda but had already been pre-informed, not by my co facilitator but by the horses.

Thank Calypso, Cameo, Bobbie and the little mini.

By soarvalleywestern, Jan 26 2015 11:35AM

I’m a few years plus, into this exciting work, it’s a real gift to have the opportunity to bring together my passion for horses with my indoor therapy clinic and take it outdoors.

Initially I found myself grappling around in the dark and feeling deskilled and needless to say “trying too hard” and wondering what I was missing and why I found the work hard and staccato fashion, not flowing, no themes or patterns.

For months I projected my uncertainties and dissatisfaction with this innovative work seeking external answers. (I hadn’t realised how well I was blocking my way forward!) By looking for precise equipment, such as, poles, cones crates, boxes and so much more. (ah, now it will work!), but guess what nothing really changed. Ah! Now I know what it must be, my environment, of course why didn’t I realise this ages ago, this will be the answer! So I set off having new barn doors, tidying up, painting the stables, creating a specific therapy area in the barn and generally setting out my stall. Hey, guess what nothing much changed.

Throughout my journey into EAP, EAT and EAL I have attended workshops up and down the country, visiting regional meetings, joining EAGALA and completing part 1 and 2 in July 2014 both as an MH and ES. So now I must have cracked it. I’ve learnt about clean language, not getting in front of my clients, ground based exercises and so much more that I couldn’t do it justice to go into here.

But why was I still struggling? I just couldn’t seem to find the answers. I spoke to my supervisor, Sarah Urwin at length; her words of encouragement have been second to none. She would help me to demystify EAT/EAL. Alongside the support of my colleague and friend Sharon Wood (Director/Practitioner their messages have been for me to take my psychotherapy, counselling, coaching and supervision outdoors. Take my therapy out of my indoor clinic and into the stables, fields and all the elements of the outdoors.

So the next thing for me to do is to “BE” with my clients and my horses. I stopped “trying” and started “being”. By slowing right down and taking the time to breath and just see what is going on around me, say what I’m seeing or better still creating space for my clients to be able to take the space and say what they are seeing. By my observations and reflections of what I see and experience intervening where appropriate, facilitates the partnership between my client and the horses and enables the process of Equine Assisted Therapy.

Oh at last!!!!! I think I’m getting it.

We haven’t touched the equipment for months, so how can I be offering Equine therapy. Well let me tell you, I’ve been using the hay manger, horse’s behaviour as they eat and the projections and metaphors that were there before our very eyes. But now the client seems to be at ease with the process whether it’s about eating disorders, family dynamics, personal relationships, communication and so much more. How the horses muscle in and snatch the hay, eat at different places, is there a pattern are there changes and shifts etc.? Client’s being able to identify and see what’s happening with several aha! moments. Light bulb moments flashing about as if there is something magical happening, but no, it’s just EAT and EAP.

We move into the stables and learn about the horse’s eating needs and how my clients can observe behavioural outcomes from the horses before, during and after the feeding regimes. By simple changes in timings and patterns of the indoor feeding regime demonstrates control, agitation, restlessness and highlighting for my clients by the horses behaviours, issues they have never recognised in themselves before.

All of this work and so many more examples are underpinned by my knowledge and experience as a counsellor and psychotherapist since 1995 and my life around horses since 1966 these together create a solid base for my clients to grow , learn and overcome issues with Equine Assisted Therapy.

I feel truly privileged to have found this developing model of therapy and learning. Equine Assisted Therapy is now an integrated part of my practice.

By soarvalleywestern, Jul 7 2014 04:56PM

As a practicing Psychotherapeutic Counsellor I believe that I have been given a great privilege and opportunity to work alongside Sharon Wood of Horses for Causes at Soar Valley Western Stables.

Here at Horses for Causes myself and Sharon work as a team to offer our clients Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), this is a different and alternative therapy to assist people with differing issues with a varying age range. The people who utilise this service come with their individual problems which are affecting the running of their lives and very often struggle to voice these. Some may be either too ashamed to admit they are suffering or worry of what others might think or say, they may even be confusing this behaviour with their ‘normal life’. Clients may experience the effects of a hidden or unresolved problem in their lives which causes an imbalance on a day to day basis.

Using EAL techniques is perfect for each individual client to find their inner voice and allow them the opportunity and space that they need to move onto a healthier path to achieve their long term goals.

The therapeutic team at Horses for Causes work to set ethical guidelines whilst offering our client a non-judgmental therapy, we endeavour to give each of our clients the much needed time to talk openly and safely about any issues that they may bring to sessions, whilst offering a confidential service.

EAL differs in various ways from standard counselling, firstly- myself and Sharon are working together in each therapy session. We see our clients outside, the ‘counselling office’ being in a field with horses. I personally believe that this setup offers clients a more relaxing session, they are able to become one with the environment, by grooming the horses, being in tune with their breathing patterns, painting them or being set an exercise or task with the horses. All of this is part of allowing the client to understand themselves and the issues or behaviours that they are bringing to their session.

The horses assist the therapy by allowing us to process through observation. A client may come to therapy unconsciously putting barriers up, but whilst working with the horse it enables the client to get a better understanding and learning regarding the issues that are blocking their path. I have been part of some very powerful EAL sessions which have helped the client open up and move forward at a pace they are comfortable with.

Whilst this is very much experiential the therapeutic team work together to build an individual session plan to fit around each and every client, we look at the initial issues and work with their emotions, moods and situation. This plan can and sometimes does change on the day if the client arrives with an issue they feel needs addressing straight away.

Whereas seeing my clients in the therapy room is more of a talking therapy, a client can see the same or similar results with EAL, so for instance if a client has many obstacles in their way, we may set up an obstacle for the client and ask the client to choose a horse to work with. We may even ask the client to name the obstacle, then stand back and observe how the client and the horse work together to get over the obstacle and achieve a goal.

By personal interaction with the horses, clients learn to communicate in a way that the horse can understand. This builds confidence in the client in a relaxed and stress free way by finding new ways for clients to deal with their problems, in many cases they are greatly reduced and others they are resolved. At EAL we are able to liaise with any organisation that wishes to send their clients for our therapy sessions.

We take pride in providing a friendly, supportive, caring and learning environment for the client and carer who can play a key part in their therapy. We do offer initial "consultations / taster" sessions for clients and carers who would like to experience first-hand.

As previously said I really do believe that it is a privilege to be given the opportunity to be a part of each and every client’s individual journey for such a short but yet powerful time. Whilst working as a team together we have seen the differences that this has made to our clients’ lives in a very positive way allowing them the time to unravel their thoughts and concerns.

We can offer EAL to clients who are affected by trauma, domestic abuse, sexual abuse. Clients who need help with anger management, life skills, self awareness and esteem, body image, relationship issues, depression, autistic spectrum and special educational needs. We are helping people from different backgrounds, giving them an opportunity to make changes in their own lives.