Owner says help with mental health problem needed even more following the new self-isolation rules. A Leicestershire horse therapy centre helping people with mental health problems is benefiting from a £237,045 National Lottery grant which will fund three years of courses.
Dina Shale runs The Way of the Horse Discovery Centre which specialises in treating people who suffer with acute stress, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Her centre is closed currently due to the coronavirus lockdown but she and her small team still have to feed and muck out the horses each day. The new funding does not cover day to day essential for caring for her rescue horses. She and her team in Lutterworth have been running the business and giving homes to maltreated or neglected horses for five years. The results of the horse therapy are impressive, with her clients recording a 93% increase in personal wellbeing in evaluation reports. She has ten horses on site.
Figures released in 2018 revealed that mental health patients in Leicester endured the longest wait for an appointment in the country – 135 days. This was the average from referral to the first Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) appointment. Dina is now keen to hear from people who need support and on NHS waiting lists for treatment for conditions like mental health disorders, behavioural problems or depression.
She and her team ran the project for a couple of weeks in March before they were forced to close because of the coronavirus outbreak. And she said people need help with mental health problems even more now they are self-isolating and are living in fear of contracting the virus. Dina said: “It may seem unusual to use horses to improve our mental health, but we have been running programmes for all age groups for five years and it works.
“It is a real shame we have closed because our therapy would be a big help in these difficult times. “We are looking for people to help. They may be lost in the world, need support to bring some stability back in their lives and develop new thought patterns and strategies. “When the abused and badly treated horses come to us they have given up and lost their spirit. When the people who arrive at our stable office in need of help, they are often exactly the same. They have often given up with their lives. We help these people have a purpose in life and work on gaining the trust of the rescue horses too. Just like our animals, they are taken on a journey of recovery.”
“The National Lottery team were wonderful. They looked at what we achieved during a pilot scheme between August and Christmas last year. “Having seen our specialist staff in action and the difference we make to people’s lives, they agreed to fund our Project Pony courses. Our March 2020 intake is all booked up but we are already filling up our next six-month cycle which starts later in the year.”
For Leigh Moore, from Hinckley, the Project Pony experience in September 2019 was “life-changing”. Leigh, aged 27, said: “I went to Dina for help with anxiety and to help me deal with past traumas. When we started the programme, I had no ideas what my triggers were to make me anxious. The programme helped me figure them out. Thanks to Dina, I now have techniques in place to help me deal with my mental health.
“The best thing is being with Dina’s lovely horses who really respond to you. When I wasn’t feeling that grand, the horses would know! “If I was feeling anxious, the horse I worked with called Harry G played up. It is as if he was saying ‘I don’t want you to come near me in that mood’. I learned so much, such as how to use breathing to calm myself. It was an amazing experience, it really did change my life.
“The programme freed me up and gave me the confidence to work out what I wanted to do with my life. I have given up my corporate job which was not doing me any good.” Dina said: “The people I help range from children disappointed with the education system to adults who have struggled to deal with their mental health for numerous reasons. Their lives are transformed.”
The people they help will work alongside a specialist equine instructor and the horses and teach them about the psychology of horses and other animals as well as how to develop emotional intelligence and emotional agility. The theories are backed up by Leicester-based expert Dr Emma Lethbridge, the science behind the project. She is a qualified teacher and doctor of cognitive neuropsychology.
Dina said: “This is a valuable project teaching people how to change life-long habits and learn coping strategies. Anyone who has never been around horses will enjoy it as there is so much to learn. We want people to come on board with us and realise we offer something powerful and unique.”
Dina’s posts on Facebook are called ‘Dina’s Daily’ and feature the antics of her horses. She will be enlisting the help of Leicester’s The Spice Guy, Sandie Vara, for a healthy eating project to get families working together to cook and eat better. Anyone interested in either of the projects can get it touch via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thewayofthehorse2015/