Developing wisdom, wonder and well-being
Who we are
Horsemanship for Health is a Community Interest Company based in the Teignbridge area of South Devon. Our primary aim is to promote lifelong learning and healthy personal development for people of all ages and social backgrounds through equine and animal assisted education. Our projects also aim to contribute to the growing body of research into the health and well-being benefits of therapeutic horsemanship and the connection between animals and humans.
Our experienced horses have worked with children, young people and adults to help them build their confidence and find a sense of purpose and new direction in life. They have also worked sensitively with people recovering from illness, depression, trauma and deep loss. The horses offer honest feedback and have inspired people to discover new insights in behaviour leading to growth and transformation in health, work and relationships.
How we work
Horsemanship is the art of communicating with horses in language horses understand. Learning and practising horsemanship teaches us how to be honest and open because in order to truly connect with humans, horses require us to be fully present. We teach people how to read horses and how to influence horses by giving clear signals through body language, energy and intention.
Learning through doing
Inspired by our horses’ natural sense of curiosity, responsiveness and play we have designed ground activities that enable people to find joy and meaning in learning. We believe in positive learning through doing. We teach people how to communicate with horses from the inside out, which means working on our own attitudes and mind-set. We recognise that learning any new language requires patience as well as practice and so we work in short periods of time with breaks for reflection and feedback.
At our yard on the outskirts of Newton Abbot, we give children time to discover the simple joys of being in nature free from the distractions of modern life. We offer older people an opportunity to take time away from hectic or complicated lives. For those isolated by illness, loneliness or other life situations, we offer a chance to connect with a generous and warm animal that intuitively understands the importance of friendship.
Horses are social animals and very much like humans they form strong attachments and bonds. Some horse friendships last for life. When horses meet new people they are non-judgmental and will bond with the person’s real identity rather than their social persona. Horses prefer us to be honest and straightforward, and for this reason it is difficult to hide anything from them, as they will often see through any pretence. Horses accept us for who we are and this can benefit people who suffer from social isolation, depression, anxiety and conditions such as dementia and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
Research based learning
Horses have accompanied us through wars and the rise and fall of empires. They have helped us to build civilisations and make advances in agriculture, industry and commerce. Now horses no longer need to work for a living, new roles are emerging that build on the legacy of our long relationship. Equine assisted psychotherapy and equine assisted education are growing fields in which the horse acts as a teacher and guide. All horses communicate through body language and are highly tuned to react to subtle signals, although only some horses are suited to therapeutic work.
In equine therapy and equine assisted education, the horse becomes a partner to support personal development and growth. In therapeutic horsemanship centres, horses are carefully chosen and educated to work with people to help them understand their habits and behaviours. In the UK, therapeutic education programmes help people understand their drug and alcohol addictions, eating disorders, relationship problems and low self-esteem.
Studies demonstrate positive impacts from spending time with horses. Research has shown that simply being with horses lowers stress and boosts the well-being hormone oxytocin, which increases feelings of empathy and worthiness that can be carried across into human relationships. One study of teenagers demonstrated that weekly sessions with horses significantly lowered the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Meet the team
Belinda Seaward has a degree in Philosophy and Psychology from Middlesex University and a Postgraduate Certificate of Education from Exeter University. She has taught in mainstream secondary education for more than 15 years. She has also been a director of two therapeutic horsemanship organisations in the South West and trained with Horses Helping People in Buckinghamshire. Her substantial experience of working with horses and people includes a documented track record of successfully delivering education, health and well-being projects that have benefited adults in recovery from suicidal depression, addiction and anxiety. She has also worked with young people suffering from illness, children in foster care and young people excluded from school. She is trained in suicide prevention and advanced coaching and mentoring.
Jo Frodsham trained in Equine Facilitated Learning with LEAP, Gloucestershire and has volunteered for Riding for the Disabled. Her background is in administration in educational and health organisations and learning sign language was a benefit of working with deaf colleagues at the University of Bristol. Jo has years of experience of working with and guiding school governing bodies in Bristol and Torbay, and finally gave up working in schools to concentrate on building her skills and knowledge to work with Horsemanship for Health. She is currently attending the School for Social Entrepreneurs on the 2016-17 Plymouth programme.
Jeff Perry manages the 20-acre farm and stable yard at Newton Abbot where we run our workshops and courses and is a key member of our team, acting as a facilitator on sessions. He has worked on the land all his life as a gardener and farmer. Jeff has also ridden and worked with horses for as long as he can remember. His extensive horsemanship experience includes many years spent training and rehabilitating racehorses. Jeff’s thoughtful and patient approach to horses has been influenced by the work of the American horseman and author Mark Rashid and former British jockey Michael Peace, known for his work: Think Like Your Horse.
Rachel Edwards is a Psychological Therapist and member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. She has a degree in Psychology from Exeter University and she also studied law. Her fifteen years of professional experience as part of mental health teams include work in psychiatric and residential units. She is highly experienced in supporting people with complex mental health difficulties, including substance misuse, self-harm and eating disorders. Rachel’s expertise also includes work with teenagers excluded from school. As a therapist, she works with groups and one-to-one. She recently completed suicide prevention training.
Our herd of two Arabian geldings and two Dartmoor mares live in two fields on a small yard in the farming valley of Netherton, just outside Newton Abbot. The herd is kept as naturally as possible and allowed to roam freely between the fields, which they share with two goats. The ponies are protected from the elements by their thick, natural, waterproof fur coats. The Arabian horses, however, rarely grow thick coats and need to wear rugs in winter mostly to protect them from the rain. The horses are allowed to roll in mud, play, groom, doze, socialise and simply be horses. From spring to autumn, the horses are moved to a natural meadow with sloping contours and high hedges to browse from. The Arabians are ridden barefoot without shoes and exercised regularly on the network of wooded tracks around the area. The ponies are given short training exercises and walked out around the lanes.
The session was perfectly paced. I felt completely safe at all times. Debbie
There’s so much to learn. I’ve been telling everyone about it. Stephanie
I can’t quite believe it because it feels like magic. Sue
I loved it. When can I come again? Rebecca
Working with Sheranni had a very profound effect on me. I learnt about leadership, connection and energy in such a tangible way because a horse is such a clear mirror, able to reflect back our thinking and our emotions perfectly. Alison
The work with Tinker was revealing – the fact that she recognised my inexperience and was very willing to accept my calmness and easy-to-be-with presence – but only when it suited her. Peter
We work with small groups or individuals and design sessions and courses to suit people’s needs and circumstances. If you would like to find out more about how to work with us, do please get in touch by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone Belinda Seaward: 07968904256/01626778049