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New initiative to provide equine facilitated intervention for 4,000 ‘exhausted’ frontline workers

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We’re delighted to join forces with other UK federation members of Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI) to launch a new initiative offering equine facilitated intervention over the next two years for 4,000 frontline workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The #HopeForCovidHeroes initiative has launched with an initial pilot delivering the specialist horse intervention programme of ground and mounted sessions to up to 50 frontline workers over the next six months.   We are now looking for frontline workers to get in touch if they are interested in taking part.

Newly qualified teacher Jessica is one of the first frontline workers to benefit from the equine facilitated intervention through Gul Outdoor Therapy.  The #HopeForCovidHeroes initiative has transformed her mental health and given her tools to cope with what seemed an ever-increasing task providing essential care to young people.  She says: “It felt as if I was carrying the weight of so many people, and now I am being carried.”

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Photo by Gul Outdoor Therapy

The #HopeForCovidHeroes initiative is available to paramedics, nurses, teachers, carers, police and others affected by the pandemic.  The pilot will run in at least eight counties, with a view to expanding nationally to reach thousands of frontline workers.

We believe that spending time with horses in nature helps improve a person’s wellbeing and studies undertaken show equines provide strong emotional support.

Dr Celia Grummitt from Gul Outdoor Therapy, who is leading the HETI(UK) initiative says: “We know that frontline workers are experiencing overload and exhaustion, and this may worsen as the pandemic continues.

“We are looking to provide an effective horse-based intervention to allow accrued fatigue and unprocessed memories of very challenging work through the pandemic to begin to be processed.

“Evidence shows us that equines help us to process our emotions. Spending time with a horse can give frontline workers timeout to reconnect with themselves through connecting with horses and ponies and their sentient and sensitive interactions.  These animals mirror emotions and moods and help people notice their own emotions, so allowing processing to take place.”

We have teams ready to offer equine facilitated intervention to frontline workers affected by working though the pandemic at a time when they are exhausted.   Frontline workers interested in applying for an equine facilitated intervention session need to contact us at dawn.neil@mareandfoal.org

Sarah Jane Williamson, Chief Executive of the Mare and Foal Sanctuary says: “We are delighted to be a part of this worthy initiative and hope to welcome many frontline workers into our safe space so that they may spend time connecting with our horses and begin to process their emotions at their own pace.”

The #HopeForCovidHeroes initiative is organised and provided through HETI UK’s participating members: God Unlimited Outdoor Therapy (Gul), Mare and Foal Sanctuary, Chartered Physiotherapists in Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy (CPTRH), Riding for the Disabled Associated (RDA), Horseback UK and Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy (FCRT) 

Jessica's Story

Newly qualified teacher Jessica had just entered her first full year of teaching as an apprentice when the pandemic struck. Like many frontline workers Jessica was left reeling from the implications of teaching not just in a new career and new school but in an entirely new way too – teaching both young people who were still in school and those educating from home whilst at the same time keeping safe from an unknown but life-threatening disease.

Like many teachers up and down the country Jessica chose to set aside her own safety concerns and began planning and delivering lessons to two groups of children at once whilst still learning herself and supporting the children in her care emotionally.

Unsurprisingly their families needed support too and all of this took its toll on her mental health as the usual support systems such as staff rooms, friends, family and her sports were less available.

Jessica found herself becoming exhausted, despondent and she started to worry. She even wondered if she had made a mistake getting into teaching at all.

It was here, at her lowest point that she came across the #HopeForCovidHeroes initiative.  She is one of the first frontline workers to benefit from the equine facilitated intervention provided for at Gul Outdoor Therapy.  She was offered a free course of sessions to walk alongside its trained staff and equip her with the tools she would need to rebalance, re-find her resilience and cope in the coming months and years.

At Gul Outdoor Therapy Jessica worked with a clinician who, after gathering information, used the centre’s Highland mare, Kirsty, to help as needed. The time, space and opportunity to think things through whilst working in Kirsty’s peace-giving space has been transformative.

Jessica has now completed four weekly sessions and despite even this short time the effect on her has been considerable.  In Jessica’s words “it felt as if I was carrying the weight of so many people, and now I am being carried”.

Jessica continued in her work as a teacher and wants to continue to teach long into the future.

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