Overview of SpiritAtPlay

Spirit at Play

SpiritAtPlay supports children and adults to improve both physical and emotional wellbeing. We offer a calm interaction with horses to people with learning disabilities, low level mental ill health and physical disabilities, young people at risk of offending, NEET and other challenges with our 5 rescue horses.

We offer Equine Assisted Learning to develop life skills by positive interaction with the healing nature of horses. This is carried out in an open and natural environment which enriches the level of wellbeing and emotional health.

Horses are kept in a natural environment allowing them a herd situation, where they can express themselves freely. Although the horses have chronic injuries and ailments meaning they cannot be ridden, interacting with them on the ground has unique qualities and benefits. Judith, the centre manager, has trained them to be handled in a very unique way, letting them have freedom of space and free will. They are free to roam the paddocks, fields, hard track and yard.

The yard has large shelters with hay boxes so that the horses can come and go as they please in as a herd to eat fresh hay. This seems to make a very relaxed and happy environment not only for the horses but all the visitors who come to us.

Whilst there is a feeling you can be yourself there is always a feeling alongside that of mutual respect. The horses do a lot of their work without restraints hence visitors learn body language, understanding, tolerance, control of energy as a means of communication.

How to get involved

You can visit us in two ways:

  • by referral from a family support worker, school, health visitor etc .. to book up to four sessions. Each session is about 2 hours where a big variety of horse interactive activities can take place. We want the outcome of these sessions to make a positive contribution towards or be a remedy for personal or family issues. See more about sessions below.
  • As a volunteer to help with routine stable maintenance and horse care. See more about volunteering below.

Presenting the FAMILIES UNITED project

A message from Judith Edwards: As the project manager, I have joined support groups on-line for parents and carers with disabled children either physically or mentally in order to develop my offer of support for the children and parents I work with. I also wanted to understand the problems that the disabled child in the family brings so I could give them as much help as I can: I have worked with many of these families and am aware that problems do occur.

Identifying a need for Families United: I’ve recently approached two groups: the Autistic Society and Support for Carers and Parents to ask them if they would be interested in including SpiritAtPlay as an option in their range of support activities. Twenty three families got in touch with me between October 2017 and July 2018 and said they would be delighted to gain support from SpiritAtPlay.

The purpose of the Families United project is to help these families to enrich their family unit relationships. After reading posts that parents or carers have put to the groups it became clear that the family as a whole are struggling with relationship issues of one kind or another causing pressure points. The problems arising by having a disabled child sometimes causes conflict between the family members making everyday life more difficult to deal with. If the stress levels can be reduced between them the problems can be faced in a more united way.

How much does the service cost?

Thanks to the Big Lottery Communities Grant, we can run the Families United project as a free of charge service for those families with no recourse to finances to pay for it. Where a family is being funded we will invoice a charge of £80 per session. It is the same price whether for an individual or whole family attending.

How we do it - typical sessions might contain

The best way to book sessions is by referral, however we will consider family self-referrals sometimes. There is a simple referral form to complete (see below). Our horses are an essential part of the team. We are not a horse riding project, all the activities take place on the ground. But don’t let this put you off, we are confident that to experience horses next to them rather than on them brings a different and special relationship.

The horses play their part in guiding the sessions; it’s not what we do to the horses but what we do with them! We aim in the sessions to bring about a fresh understanding of your recurring relationship issues and find a way for you to manage them better. To this end, the variety of activities is huge, for example: guiding a horse through an obstacle course, horsy ball games, learning horse language, stable care and horse care – feeding and grooming.