Tara Sutton and Kristin Maloney are using their horses to give bullied children a ‘helping hoof’.
The mother and daughter team run an equine therapy service called Ansa Counselling in Ellis Lane.
As experienced horse owners and trained therapists, Mrs Sutton and Mrs Maloney use their skills to help children and adults deal with times of crisis.
“Equine therapy involves using horses or donkeys but there is no horse experience necessary, in fact the less you know about them the better,” Mrs Sutton said.
“It is just like any other therapy except we do activities like building an obstacle course you have to walk the horses through.
“It gives me an idea of how you set goals, for example we have little horses and someone will come in and set up jumps that are way too high.
“It shows me how resourceful you are, how imaginative you can be and how well you think things through.”
Mrs Maloney said bullied children often fared better with equine therapy than traditional talking therapy.
“It gives kids confidence when they can work with a horse – they start to change within,” she said.
“They stop believing that they are nothing and they build some self-worth.
“You can tell a kid until you’re blue in the face how beautiful they are, but until they start to believe that themselves, they aren’t going to change their situation.”
Equine therapy can help people with a range of mental health issues.
Mrs Sutton said they had worked with people suffering from anger issues, lack of confidence, depression, anxiety and more.
She said horses were great at therapy work, especially when it came to children and teenagers.
“They are a ‘flight’ animal so they are very, very good at reading their environment and picking up on what is happening around them,” she said.
“We know what normal behaviour is for our horses so we know when the horse is picking up on something from someone.
“Horses don’t judge people, they don’t care what you look like – it’s all about what you bring into the paddock.”