Bangor Mail - - NEWS -

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

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