A therapeutic partnership


An equine therapy centre in Blandford is creating transformative connections for those most in need of healing – Sally Cooper reports

Connie and Texas spending time together
All images: Sarah Vivian

It’s a return trip to Horserenity this month, to find out more about the horse connection process and mindset after my initial visit (you can read the first part here), which talks about the ‘natural herd’ of eclectic horses at Horseserenity, the equine therapy centre in Blandford. One of owner Sarah Vivian’s biggest helpers – and inspired connecters with the animal’s energy – is her daughter.
Connie is an energetic 19 year old horsewoman who freely talks about how the horses continue to help her with the management of her autism.
Poppy, the self-appointed leader of the equine therapy herd, was Connie’s first pony. All the animals look to her for guidance if something untoward occurs.
Big shy John was Connie’s first eventer and skewbald Texas is her current eventer. When he’s not in therapy sessions, he’s helping to propel her up the levels towards Novice Eventing (a level determined by the jump height – show jumping 115cm, cross country 110cm, and a highe grade Dressage test).

Connie was a Grade A student in school, but she decided after achieving her GCSE and BTechs that formal education was not where she felt comfortable, as she frequently felt overwhelmed by a big, strictly structured environment. Since the pandemic, like so many others, Connie has felt more comfortable with life learning and a more personal timetable. It has been hard for mum Sarah, a teacher herself, to come to terms with. But, on the positive side, it has allowed Sarah to talk to other parents with children experiencing the same issues. ‘I totally empathise with you’ tend to be magic words.

Skewbald Texas is Connie’s current eventer: when he’s not in therapy sessions, he’s helping to propel her up the levels towards Novice Eventing

Connie believes that, when she is working with the horses or competing out on the circuit, she is acting as a representative for those who have hidden disabilities, which are frequently poorly considered and understood. Through social media, Connie has used her personal experiences, including serious depression, to help others, with thoughts and advice on how to cope and move on. For her, the horses and her equestrian life have been a literal life saver.

There is, of course, a juxtaposition of the determinedly relaxed style of the Horserenity world and the formal, structured world of Eventing. There are obvious issues, including the rigid structure of competing and the strict timetables … even seeing others shouting at their horses or handling them with little empathy. Instilled with high standards of care and calm horsemanship, Connie admits she occasionally has to rein in her anger at other riders’ treatment of their horses. ‘How can horses be expected to perform when they are treated in such a manner? Above all, the horse must be respected,’



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