Athena Herd CIC is passionate about working with the community. We recently completed programme of Equine Facilitated Learning with residents of the Crossways Community. This was a strong example of this. We are very grateful to the Kent Community Foundation and Gatwick Foundation for providing the funding for this work.
The programme worked with a small group of centre residents with differing mental health challenges. They were accompanied onsite by centre staff. Each of the sessions were a blend of group-discussion, mindfulness and equine facilitated learning.
Our objectives for the programme were to develop the following:
- Self-awareness of energetic and emotional states, and the managing and changing of them.
- Self-confidence and being able to acknowledge and respect oneself. Including assertiveness (with horses) and so maintain boundaries and stand up for self.
- Stronger communication skills, issue clear and effective instructions and recognise feedback.
- Greater strengths and resilience in a social situation.
Our approach was to create a space which facilitated a safe foundation of non-judgemental self-awareness. We then built upon this, introducing tools that they could work with in everyday situations. They were then given the chance to practice working with these tools alongside the Athena Herd.
The feedback back from attendees – both staff and residents – has been extremely positive. A strong testament to the value of our approach to this work.
All of those attending reported a development of self-awareness. Similarly they all benefited from the tools and techniques that were shared with them. They also reported an increase in personal confidence – both individually and socially.
Similarly, there was a consistent reflection from the group around the positive effects of being in the presence of horses. How connecting with them created a calmness, and helped build trust and confidence.
As an experiential learning process each session included a reflective discussion. That discussion was framed in such a way as to draw parallels between the onsite experience and everyday life.
From the staff too
The supporting staff from Crossways were really impressed with the engagement of the groups. “It was so good to see all of our residents progressing with their self-confidence. Being so engaged with and responsive to the work you were doing.”
They continue to summarise the value of the on-site experience. “The unique aspect of this work was the experience the staff at Athena brought to the sessions. Combined with the interaction with the horses themselves. This is not something that can be replicated in the residents own home environment as it is an experience in itself. The tools can be learnt and applied of course, like relaxation and grounding techniques. However, the most important aspects come from the experience of being at Athena itself.”
Once again, we would like to express our thanks (and on behalf of the Crossways Community) to Kent Community Foundation and The Gatwick Foundation.