The power of ponies
Mending hearts in Delamere
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’