Ponies turn­ing lives around

Up on the wild moors of Dart­moor, we meet a re­tired headteacher who’s har­nessed its iconic ponies to help chil­dren with phys­i­cal and emo­tional dif­fi­cul­ties

YOURS (UK) - - News - By Katharine Woot­ton

Out on the windy moors above Bovey Tracey to­wards the edge of Dart­moor, Judy Fawcett em­barks on a rit­ual she has to do every time she’s here. Tucked away from the harsh weather and craggy veg­e­ta­tion that char­ac­terises th­ese moors, is the sta­ble where a cer­tain young man called Char­lie en­thu­si­as­ti­cally tucks into his sup­per. Char­lie is a tra­di­tional Dart­moor pony and one of six kept by the Dart­moor Pony Her­itage Trust Cen­tre, where chil­dren with men­tal, emo­tional and phys­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties can ben­e­fit from the ponies’ gen­tle na­tures. As chair­woman of the Dart­moor Pony Her­itage Trust, Judy loves each and every one of th­ese ponies, but Char­lie is the one she’s be­come ac­cus­tomed to hav­ing a se­cret cud­dle with every time she sees him. “Ev­ery­one laughs at me, but I just have to see Char­lie be­fore I leave – he gives me this re­ally warm, re­lax­ing feel­ing,” says Judy, a re­tired as­sis­tant headteacher. “Now he sees me com­ing and is like ‘oh here we go, she wants an­other cud­dle!’” De­spite their hardy, sure­footed ap­pear­ance, ca­pa­ble of with­stand­ing some of the most in­hos­pitable en­vi­ron­ments in the UK, Judy be­lieves the tra­di­tional Dart­moor ponies are ideal for work­ing with young peo­ple with a range of life chal­lenges. And at a time when the cen­turies-old breed is fac­ing dwin­dling pop­u­la­tions – num­bers are down to around 1,500 from 30,000 in the Fifties – their new role is a great way to cre­ate aware­ness and love for this breed. “I think horses have a sen­si­tiv­ity that can ben­e­fit peo­ple of all ages, but the Dart­moor pony es­pe­cially can pick up on all kinds of emo­tions,” says Judy. That’s why the Dart­moor Pony Her­itage Trust has launched an equine as­sisted-learn­ing pro­gramme, where vol­un­teers help young peo­ple with chal­leng­ing be­hav­iours or dis­abil­i­ties, such as ADHD or anger­man­age­ment is­sues, in­ter­act with ponies. In a year, the Trust works with around 150 chil­dren, with schools re­fer­ring

Spe­cial bond: Judy, main pic­ture and with some of the ponies

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