HORSES THAT HEAL SCARS OF ABUSE
NOT only can horses respond to human behaviour, they don’t pass judgment – which makes them ideal for helping victims of domestic abuse.
To help “abuse survivors” in Anglesey and Gwynedd, women and girls are being given access to equine sports to aid their rehabilitation.
By taking part in horse agility and western trail riding, it’s hoped their equine companions will rebuild their confidence.
The project is run by the Porthmadog-based Welsh Institute of Therapeutic Horsemanship (WITH), with funding from Comic Relief’s “Levelling the Field” fund.
Backing the initiative is Gorwel, a support service run by housing association Grŵp Cynefin, which provides free transport for the programme’s users.
“Horses can act as mirrors and communicate well to humans, so they’re perfect for helping people who have been through challenging periods in their lives,” said Gorwel manager Gwyneth Williams.
WITH was launched in 2013 as a successor to the Penytrip Project, set up by equine trainer Lindsey Mitchell on her smallholding near Treflys. The project drew comparisons with the 1998 film The Horse Whisperer, in which Robert Redford played an equine trainer who is hired to help an injured teenager back to health.
Initial results were spectacular – eight out of 10 young offenders had their cases closed and two selectively mute youngsters began to speak again. More than three quarters returned to school or found work within eight weeks. Since then WITH has opened centres in Gwynedd and Anglesey, and is fundraising to buy a centre in South Wales.
Ms Williams explained that the domestic abuse pro- ject was particularly effective for helping recovering families, commenting: “Children can spend time with horses without spending money on private riding lessons.”
y Trip Equine trainer Lindsey Mitchell with her Shetland ponies at Pen is based farm, where the Welsh Institute of Therapeutic Horsemanship