A lady called Sarah Stephens who lives in Nettleham, a popular village just outside Lincoln, has set up an innovative therapy centre using horses to assist cancer patients deal with the emotional side of cancer treatments.  Horses are used extensively in therapy for people with mental and physical issues-Riding For The Disabled is a very well known charity-but using horses for cancer patients is a new idea.

This is believed to be one of the first such services in the country.

Sarah turned to her own horses for support while she went through treatment for breast cancer herself.  She then applied for funding from Macmillan, a cancer charity and set up the Spirit and Soul Equine Therapy Service.  The service has patients taking part in structured therapeutic activities with the horses and learning horsemanship over 4 sessions.

It is often said about horses that they pick up on their rider’s state of mind and body language.  One of our favourite sayings as riders is “What’s in the brain goes down the rein”, meaning that if we are tense and nervous when riding or handling horses, the horse will pick up on that and often act in the same way.  Conversely, a quiet and confident rider or handler can transmit that confidence to the horse, who will relax, realising that they have someone “in charge”, who will look after them.

They do this calculation naturally, because they are what is called “Fight or flight” animals and they constantly have to make decisions about whether they are safe in a situation, or whether it is best to take off and avoid potential danger.

As riders, we have all experienced the “flight” version, as your horse takes off having spotted an extremely disturbing threat- such as a fluttering leaf, or a scary pheasant suddenly crossing their path!

Horses do not judge.  They react to behaviour, not how anyone looks, So you can have radical surgery such as a double mastectomy, as Sarah did, have scars and lose all your hair, but the horse won’t care or even notice.  They are as happy to dump Royalty as they are me-Princess Anne and Zara Tindall can attest to the horse’s complete non-discrimination policy on that.

Sarah said:

“Being with the horses helped me to process everything. They have such a calming and constant influence. I thought other people could benefit from this too.

A lot of people affected by cancer put on the ‘I’m fine’ mask when internally they’re in turmoil. Horses don’t see the exterior, they see the interior. It’s a good place to start.”

Mandy Edwards, who is the Macmillan partnership manager for Lincolnshire, said that this was a completely new step for the county and said it was “very exciting”.

Macmillan, which is a charity that Ringrose Law endorses and fundraises for, are delighted to be able to promote the service to support cancer patients through what can be an extremely difficult and gruelling period in their lives in terms of emotional well-being.

For more information call 01283 384 511 or email info@spiritandsouleaac.co.uk


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