North West Wales

Horse whisper therapy for Gwynedd teens

The two horses that will be used in the The Penytrip Project
Image caption The youngsters will work with a rescued horse and a pony at the farm near Porthmadog

Youngsters with behavioural problems in Gwynedd are to be taught to "horse whisper" in a bid to improve their confidence and self-esteem.

A new project is starting next month at a farm near Porthmadog.

Children will be encouraged to communicate and bond with the horses and learn how their behaviour affects the animals.

The project has secured £5,000 from the National Lottery and is one of 56 across Wales to share £203,423 funding.

Horse whispering is perhaps most famously associated with the 1998 Hollywood film directed by and starring Robert Redford.

Project manager Lindsey Mitchell said she first saw the positive effect working with horses could have on youngsters while working at a summer camp in Virginia in the USA.

She has also been involved in equine therapy project for children with disabilities in Warwickshire.

But she said using horses to help modify the behaviour of youngsters with problems such anger management was relatively new.

"The term horse whisperer is a bit flowery," she said.

"It's really about how the body, the voice and even the breath can affect another living creature.

"It's very useful for children with behavioural problems to see an immediate reaction to their behaviour so that they can modify it.

"When they work with horses, they have to be be very careful about what they do or the horse will not approach them."

Disadvantaged and socially excluded youngsters will work under supervision with a rescued horse and pony which live at the farm.

'Improve lives'

Ms Mitchell said the money would allow the project to run as a pilot with 15 youngsters for six months.

"We try and tailor our programmes to work with children with a wide variety of needs to help improve their lives," she said.

"We hope to expand this project if the pilot is successful to include 80 children a year from different areas of Wales."

Other projects to benefit from the Awards For All grants from the Big Lottery Fund include the West Meliden Residents Association to run the street surfing in Denbighshire.

Street surfers use specially designed boards in a sport described as a cross between surfing, snowboarding and skating.

The Troedyrhiw Environmental Forum in Merthyr Tydfil will spend £1,950 on constructing a recycled bottle green house while the Newtown Air Training Corps 2416 Squadron in Powys will spend £5,000 to allow cadets to undertake training courses in the use of IT and gain skills in target shooting.

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