Spirit at Play is a unique organisation that helps a range of people including young people from socially challenging backgrounds, those with physical and mental challenges and young offenders by allowing them to engage with horses. A non-riding project, Spirit at Play mixes basic horse care such as grooming with ‘natural horsemanship’ techniques, which have been developed by observing how horses ‘talk’ to one another using body language and subtle signals.
This holistic approach means people can learn to connect with the animals on a deeper level, and gives them a great sense of achievement, improved confidence, peacefulness and enjoyment. The interactive project teaches beneficiaries, often with behavioural or other difficulties to lower their energy and control their behaviour in order to gain the horses’ respect. As horses reflect any anger, fear or other emotions back to their handlers, calm, passive and assertive leadership is taught which can help change attitudes and previous learned behaviour, enabling participants to foster a better approach toward life and daily interactions.
With funding from The Leicestershire Fund and Ian and Caroline McAlpine Community Fund, Spirit at Play was originally able to provide shelters for the horses, wooden cladding and fencing. Following a break-in at the facility, Spirit at Play again turned to Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation for help. We were able to match them to grants from The Sir Timothy Brooks Fund and John Laing Foundation, to provide vital materials to repair the facility and make it safe for the horses which escaped following the break-in, suffering injury before being captured.
The project has been running for twelve years, benefiting clients on a weekly basis. It is geared up for people of all abilities – from those with no experience of being in contact with a horse to those who are confident around the animals. Judith Edwards – project coordinator and leader has worked with horses all her life, and has achieved great success with the project, including training a team of volunteers in horsemanship and care of horses to support all programs with young people and adults.
Judith is now in need of new volunteers to help with care of the horses and the building work/maintenance. If you are interested please get in touch with her on 07904 053899. For more information on what we do at the Community Foundation, give us a call on 0116 262 4916.