'Ponies inspiring people' – opening minds and healing hearts
You’ll probably know already if you’ve visited us, but we’re big on animals here at the Huntington & Langham Estate. In fact, it used to be home to a feisty and independent pony named Braveheart. Braveheart came from the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, and when he was here on the Estate in Surrey, he clearly missed his home in Dartmoor.
Braveheart didn’t settle very well, and he tried to escape a few times, eventually managing to break through fencing. The difficult decision was finally made to take Braveheart back to the DPHT, where initially his future was unknown – a rather grumpy pony doesn’t tend to make many friends! However, Dru from DPHT and her team never gave up on Braveheart, and he is now the leader of the pack when it comes to working with young people at the organisation.
The DPHT has built a strong reputation for courses for young people with challenging behaviour and disabilities, with Dartmoor ponies the stars of the show. Their aim is to create opportunities for young people to meet their full potential by providing them with a set of social and emotional skills that will allow them to participate more effectively in everyday life – this could potentially help them to move into long-term employment. At the DPHT, they offer a flexible range of proven courses for students facing challenges such as anger management, lack of self-esteem and confidence, attention and behaviour deficits, disaffection and personal development.
It may seem like an unusual approach but forming a relationship with a pony actually helps young people to build trust ad also develop a bond of mutual empathy, as well as learning to face their fears and develop respect and compassion. Additionally, communication skills, self-confidence, coping techniques and self-esteem improve at the same time, which are vital for dealing with many aspects of everyday life.
Testimonial: “The work by Dru and DPHT is most likened to ‘Equine Facilitated Learning’ (EFL), an intervention that utilises horses to teach people about themselves in the hope of bringing about positive change via the learning of skills, although the inclusion of wild Dartmoor ponies offers a variation to the normal protocol. Participants seem to form a bond with both Dru and the ponies, which allows them to receive constructive feedback in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way so that the participants can come to know themselves better and witness how their actions can have consequences. Skills learnt are said to include teamwork and social skills, trust and motivation, which in turn contribute to the building of self-esteem whilst improving empathy, effective ways of managing feelings and developing greater self-awareness, all important social and emotional skills.” Dawn Chaplin and Katy Hurworth – Final Year BSc (Hons) Psychology Undergraduates, Plymouth University