Rescue horses help ex-soliders recover

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Shy Lowen rescue horses. Pic © Bernadette Langfield

Rescue horses from a sanctuary in Liverpool are helping military veterans overcome their drug and alcohol addictions.

Ex-soldiers from Tom Harrison House, a specialist facility based in Anfield, visit the Shy Lowen Horse & Pony sanctuary every week for equine rehabilitation.

The unique sessions give ex-servicemen the benefit to learn and enjoy their time with the horses who have also faced problems from a damaged past. The sanctuary uses professional methods based on horse psychology to make learning as easy as possible.

With alcohol and drug abuse being a huge problem in the military for centuries, Tom Harrison House says it is one of the only charities in the UK running a residential rehab programme exclusively for veterans with addiction problems. They believe that this kind of therapy is a great way to get the veterans on the road to recovery.

Recent studies have shown that new avenues of equine therapy are extremely effective in addressing mental health challenges and behavioural issues. This is because horses are especially valuable in the therapeutic process because of their acute sensitivity to human behaviour. Horses detect even subtle signs of stress, like tense body language or a racing heart.

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Shy Lowen Horse & Pony Sanctuary rescue ponies in need and provide them a safe haven in which they are given care and attention to overcome any physical issues.

Bernadette Langfield, the owner of Shy Lowen Horse & Pony, told JMU Journalism: “As we continue to grow, we are becoming increasingly able to expand the reach of our core values. We have worked with Tom Harrison House since summer 2014 and have been providing equine assisted sessions since 2009. Each person is assigned their own horse who they work with throughout a 12-week programme.”

She added: “We understand that the equine morning is the favourite part of the Tom Harrison House delegates. The facilitators pick up signals from the horses and can direct the sessions in a way that allows the person to experientially address their issues. There is no judgement, just support to align the person to their true self.”

Sessions are three hours’ long each Wednesday morning and start with an icebreaker chat and refreshments. Veterans then work with the horses under supervision and complete some training to get the horse through whatever issues are presented. Finally, there is a debrief where all the successes, challenges and metaphors for life are discussed.

About Gabrielle Walsh, JMU Journalism