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Horsewyse (above) is a charity just outside Long Crendon which aims to help children and adults with physical, learning and behavioural difficulties. They do this by using horses to build key life skills, from confidence and communication, to learning to manage emotions, recognise boundaries and work as a team.
The owner Neil has as reputation as a ‘child whisperer’ with an ability to connect to kids that others fail to reach. A former social worker and accomplished horse rider he’s put two passions together and found a major talent and calling. Karen has a PhD in equine exercise physiology so she knows a thing or two about horses as well.
I know several children personally who go to Horsewyse and who’ve benefited profoundly from the charity. There’s a moving video on the Horsewyse website that shows how positively the organisation can affect children with educational or learning difficulties – it’s worth watching if you have a spare five minutes.
As you’d expect, the horses are exceptionally well managed which is why I was happy for my 5 year old to take part in their growing mini-venture: day courses for mainstream kids in the school hols. It’s a way for Neil and Karen to fund the altruistic side of the business in the wake of squeezed grants but it’s a fantastic day – 5 hours in the fresh air for £25 (the same as a childminder!), interacting with and riding on the horses, shooting targets, walking, making art and meeting other children.
Iris had previously been riding a couple of times at another, much flasher local stables. Here it’s a bit more rough and ready, but the children are more involved with the horses generally, rather than just being led passively around a couple of fields. Iris enjoyed the day so much she went twice over half term, and I was amazed to see how my usually shy child approached a pony and just started grooming him at the end of the session.
The day courses return in the Christmas holidays if you’re interested. And from January owners Karen and Neil are introducing a series of six group lessons for 6-12 year olds, focusing on teaching the basics about caring for a horse, riding, team-work and having fun.
Numbers are seriously limited, and there’s an Iris-sized ‘Reserved’ sign on one of them already so move at a canter if you want to book your own place.
Horsewyse, Westfield Farm, Westfield Road, Long Crendon, Bucks. HP18 9EW. Tel: 01844 202966. E-mail: [email protected] www.horsewyse.org.uk