The power of ponies

Mend­ing hearts in De­lamere

Cheshire Life - - Inside - WORDS: Mairead Ma­hon PHO­TOS: Kirsty Thomp­son

Nor­ley-based Carly Rawl­in­son has a crack team of sev­eral ther­a­pists at her dis­posal and the fact that they’re all horses is a bonus!

‘It cer­tainly is,’ says Carly who runs The Pony Power Trust, an or­gan­i­sa­tion which em­ploys in­te­gra­tive equine ther­apy - a method which uses the calm­ing power and in­tu­ition of horsesto help with a wide range of ad­di­tional needs that in­clude, autism, ASD anx­i­ety and so­cial disor­ders.

‘One of the most ba­sic, yet one of the most im­por­tant, char­ac­ter­is­tics that a ther­a­pist must have is to be non-judge­men­tal and I can hon­estly say that horses dis­play that qual­ity in spades. It makes them so easy for peo­ple to trust and there­fore more re­laxed about talk­ing to me,’

Carly has been around horses for most of her life: she is a re­spected rid­ing in­struc­tor and you might recog­nise her from her days as a Cheshire polo player. She also has qual­i­fi­ca­tions in coun­selling and in­te­gra­tive ther­apy, so it seemed nat­u­ral to com­bine these tal­ents and, in 2015, she formed The Pony Power Trust.

‘Orig­i­nally, I was asked to bring my horses along to hos­pi­tals and hos­pices in or­der to visit pa­tients who loved them. The first visit I made was to a hospice and wit­ness­ing the plea­sure that the horse brought to the pa­tient and his fam­ily was in­cred­i­bly mov­ing. It is an amaz­ingly worth­while thing to do and I’m priv­i­leged to do it. The horses are al­ways im­pec­ca­bly be­haved: they even travel up and down in lifts with­out the slight­est flicker of panic, although I’m used to peo­ple reg­is­ter­ing sur­prise when they press the lift but­ton and out pops a horse,’ says Carly who al­ways has to as­sure staff that there is ab­so­lutely no need to put down plas­tic sheet­ing!

To­day, Carly still makes vis­its but the pos­i­tive com­ments of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als made her think that per­haps The Pony Power Trust could be ex­panded to help those with ad­di­tional needs by har­ness­ing the pos­i­tive ef­fects that horses have on peo­ple.

‘Although I don’t have any chil­dren of my own, I do have many years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in pro­vid­ing foster and respite care for chil­dren, some of whom had com­pli­cated is­sues. That ex­pe­ri­ence, com­bined with the be­lief that many peo­ple had in me, gave me the con­fi­dence to in­crease the ser­vices of The Pony Power Trust,’ says Carly.

It has proved to be a mas­sive suc­cess and peo­ple -chil­dren, adults and groups- travel from all over the North West to Carly’s base in the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side that sur­rounds the De­lamere For­est. When they ar­rive, for the first time, Carly -of­ten work­ing with the whole fam­ily- has an in depth chat in or­der to dis­cover what peo­ple hope for and how The Pony Power Trust can help.

‘The beauty about equine in­te­gra­tive ther­apy is that quite of­ten peo­ple - chil­dren es­pe­cially- don’t even re­alise that they are hav­ing ther­apy and that im­me­di­ately dis­penses with pre­con­ceived stress or a feel­ing that some­thing is ex­pected from them. We’re out­doors, which is lovely and there is no rush, it is all done at the client’s own

‘Horses are so easy for peo­ple to trust’

pace: af­ter all, the horses aren’t on a stop­watch! It is all about us­ing horses to in­spire trust, which is al­ways fol­lowed by the client be­com­ing re­laxed and more open to talk­ing to me,’ says Carly who has seen amaz­ing re­sults, in­clud­ing chil­dren who have cho­sen to be non-ver­bal be­gin­ning to vol­un­tar­ily speak.

Other par­ents have re­ported that their chil­dren are calmer, hap­pier, more out­go­ing and less anx­ious by in­ter­act­ing with Carly and her four-legged ther­a­pists.

Time-hon­oured meth­ods to gain trust in­clude en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to stroke the horse, sim­ply walk along­side it or have a go at groom­ing or feed­ing them.

‘My horses are so gen­tle, so in­tu­itive, that they seem to recog­nise ex­actly what is needed. Mind you, that said, one of our horses, Mary has an un­for­tu­nate way of eat­ing - ta­ble man­ners aren’t at the top of her agenda alas - and some­times she can make more con­tact with the hand that is feed­ing her than she should. It’s just a tickle re­ally but no-one is alarmed be­cause, like the other horses, she is beau­ti­fully calm and placid. She doesn’t even mind when peo­ple chuckle at her lack of fi­nesse when eat­ing, like a true lady, she sim­ply pre­tends not to no­tice,’ smiles Carly.

Poco, a gor­geous white pony, who likes to have fun, will quite of­ten join chil­dren at a ta­ble where they may be chat­ting or draw­ing and just stand close by watch­ing what is go­ing on, hap­pily re­ceiv­ing any pats and at­ten­tion that come his way.

Carly hopes to ex­pand in the near fu­ture which will mean more horses, more vis­its and more ther­apy. It all goes to prove that The Pony Power Trust is so much more than a one trick pony!

‘My horses are so gen­tle, they recog­nise what’s needed’

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