Eva’s story – ‘It’s my sanctuary too’
“When I mentioned that I love horses, my support worker told me about The Mare and Foal Sanctuary’s This Girl Can Exercise with Equines programme funded by Sport England. I struggle with anxiety and had become quite isolated. I wanted to try something different and coming to the sanctuary felt like it might be a good fit.
“I was very nervous during the first session. I was in a completely new situation with a small group of other women I hadn’t met before. We started working with Amy Dearlove, who is the Equine Assisted Services Equine Support Lead at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary. In my very first session she encouraged me to try to pick up a pony’s feet. I wasn’t sure whether I‘d be able to do it, but Amy encouraged me and the feeling when I did manage to do it was incredible.
“After that first visit, I knew I would be coming back again. I had six sessions through the This Girl Can Exercise with Equines programme. When I got to the end I wanted to find a way to keep coming to the sanctuary so I looked into becoming a volunteer. I started as a supported volunteer working with Amy but then progressed to being an independent volunteer after just a couple of months.
“Coming to the sanctuary is the best time in my week. It’s all about those moments of connection. Both the people and the ponies are so understanding. It’s The Mare and Foal Sanctuary but it’s become my sanctuary too. Before I started coming here I found leaving the house difficult and didn’t really speak to anyone. Now I have a place to come to that is so special.
“You give the ponies your love, but they give it back 10-fold. Being around the ponies really helps to stop me over thinking. I love everything about coming here and I can’t imagine ever getting tired of it.
“In the short term, I’m hoping to increase my volunteer hours, but long term I’d like to get a job in equine welfare and Equine Assisted Services. I love coming to the sanctuary so much. I always leave smiling. Coming here has helped me and I’d love to be able to help others have the experiences that I have had.”
Amy Dearlove, Equine Assisted Services Equine Support Lead at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, shares her experience of working with Eva: “Working with Eva was one of the highlights of my week. She is so conscientious with a real desire to learn. It was lovely to see her improving and growing in confidence each week. She took on everything from mucking out to grooming and was always ready to improve and grow. I was constantly impressed by her hard work and passion for the equines.”