Our Programmes

Our equine assisted learning, equine assisted wellbeing and equine assisted activities create opportunities for participants to learn about themselves through direct experience with our rescued horses and ponies

Equine assisted learning

Equine assisted learning at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary focuses on developing psychosocial and emotional skills through goal-based outcomes. Equine assisted learning provides experiential learning opportunities for participants with our rescued horses and ponies. Equine assisted learning promotes self-discovery, insight and the development of emotional intelligence through carefully structured learner-centred sessions. Participants are guided to relate their learning to their life experience and can gain strategies to apply in their wider lives.

In equine assisted learning sessions, participants and equines choose to interact through a variety of ground-based activities. The horses can also choose how much they want to interact in the sessions.

The learning is in the doing. People learn through experiencing representative situations in real time, with the horses offering unbiased, immediate feedback about the person’s emotional congruency and behaviours. Equine assisted learning looks at where participants are now and how they can move forward with the help of horses. Participants practise these new psychosocial and emotional skills and strategies in their lives between sessions.

Who benefits?

Equine assisted learning at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary is ideal for children and young people who have social or emotional difficulties, or disadvantages, and are struggling to engage in mainstream education settings. They may or may not be getting support from other agencies or services.

Equine assisted learning at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary is also ideal for adults who have social or emotional difficulties, or disadvantages, or are seeking to further their personal development and social and emotional competencies.

We offer individual and group equine assisted learning to children and young people, and separately to groups of adults. Sessions are individualised to meet learning outcomes for personal psychosocial and emotional skills development which are agreed with the participants. Equine assisted learning sessions are offered as one 1.5 hour session per week over a period of six weeks. Previous experience with equines is not necessary to benefit from these sessions and all sessions are ground-based.

Two horses lounging on the floor with sanctuary workers behind them

Equine assisted wellbeing

Our equine assisted wellbeing sessions for adults offer a safe space for emotional processing and self-discovery by connecting with our rescued equines. These sessions improve wellbeing and build resilience.

Each participant receives four 1 hour structured, ground-based, interactive equine assisted wellbeing sessions with one of our rescued horses or ponies with individual support from the qualified facilitator. Activities may include grooming, mindfulness activities and leading on longer walks on our beautiful sites. Previous experience with equines is not necessary to benefit from these sessions.

The equine assisted wellbeing sessions were piloted and independently evaluated as part of a national project for frontline workers whose mental health had been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We now offer these evidence-based equine assisted wellbeing sessions to a wider group of adult participants.

We have also piloted group equine assisted wellbeing sessions for adults from our local community which were well received and are offered to other groups of adult participants on a charitable or commercial basis.

Who benefits?

Individual adults who need a safe space for emotional processing and self-discovery.

Groups of adults who would benefit from time together as a team focusing on wellbeing.

Equine assisted activities

Equine assisted activities enable participants to focus on the development of transferrable life skills and contribute to the care and wellbeing of our rescued horses and ponies.

Our equine assisted activities offer participants the opportunity to achieve learning outcomes that are focused on caring for horses and enable the participant to move towards acquiring knowledge of and greater independence around caring for and managing horses and ponies. The knowledge and skills acquired are transferable to other areas of the participant’s life, both in formal learning/training or in transferable life skills, e.g. self-care, communication, team work, responsibility.

Activities can include:
• Developing an understanding of equine behaviour
• Stable management activities, for example filling hay nets, mucking out stables, poo picking fields
• Caring for our horses and ponies, for example grooming, bathing.
• Ground-based activities, for example in-hand leading, walks, long reining and agility games.

Equine assisted activities provide a route into further learning, volunteering and, potentially, employment as the skills learnt are directly transferrable to further education and the workplace.

two members of staff with wheelbarrow
  • Wellies for Wellness is our equine assisted activity programme for families. Our Wellies for Wellness sessions include equine care and welfare-led activities as well as outdoor learning encompassing a range of inclusive nature-based activities.

    Wellies for Wellness sessions are aimed at families and can be a one-off experience or offered as a series of six weekly sessions. Sessions are typically two hours in duration.

How our Education and Equine Assisted Service Offer aligns with  the new Devon Levels of Need Framework

The range of educational and Equine Assisted Services we offer meets the wide-ranging needs of children, young people and adults. We have overlaid onto the Devon Children and Families Partnership model our Equine Assisted Service offer to show the range of needs we can support through our different modalities at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary.

Download our model

Our Funders

Current funders:

As with all activities across the Sanctuary, we are not able to deliver them without the support of funders and our community. We are continually providing an experience of sanctuary for people within our sanctuary for rescued horses and ponies and we always welcome funding enquiries for these services. For more information, please contact our Fundraising Manager, Stewart Molyneux, on 01626 247941, or by e-mail on [email protected].

Previous funders

  • ESF Community Grants, funded by the European Social Fund, generously funded our ‘Your Sanctuary’ equine assisted learning programme to provide young people with transferable life and employability skills.
  • The Hedley Foundation generously funded equipment for development of our outdoor learning spaces.
  • The Norman Family Charitable Trust kindly funded ten family ‘Wellies for Wellness’ sessions for children in care.
  • Sport England are generously funding our ‘This Girl Can Exercise with Equines’ programme, encouraging women back into exercise.
  • The Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust generously funded participants on our Inspire phase of equine assisted activities. Our sessions supported the development of transferable life skills.
  • The Northbrook Community Trust awarded us a grant towards our equine assisted learning programme for students referred to us.  The trust provides grants to specialist charities who are changing the lives of some of the most disadvantaged young people in Devon. They have a particular interest in young people who are, or were, in the care of Devon County Council.
  • The Postcode Lottery awarded us funds for composting and gardening equipment to support development of our outdoor learning area.

Equine Assisted Services

Our Standards

Equine welfare is paramount and at the core of everything we do to ensure we main the highest standards at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary.
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Our Impact

Learn about the benefits of equine assisted learning and activities.
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Next Steps

Get involved with the work we carry out at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary.
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