Meet Lorna*, the owner of a farm offering short breaks and equine therapy sessions to young people and children promoting learning, mental well-being, and nature connection.
The children and young people that visit the farm are between 7 and 20 years old and have a range of different needs. Encountering farm animals and life in the countryside helps them grow and learn valuable lessons while finding new interests.
Animals could teach children and young people valuable lessons
about unconditional love, respect and acceptance.
“The young people who visit are free to act at whatever age and stage of development they are at, they often crumple to the ground and roll in the hay or hide in the long grass” says Lorna*. The freedom to play in this environment is also very beneficial and they often express how they are feeling through games and imaginary scenarios. The physical aspect of being in the countryside around animals offers a form of motivation for children, that otherwise do not like to walk, run, or climb and helps with their hand and eye co-ordination and balance.
No two days on the farm are the same…
with animals and children, as both require a certain amount of routine and boundaries to thrive and grow. The young people who visit learn more about the world around them by caring for the animals, having the freedom to run in the fields, and by witnessing the changes in the seasons and weather. They learn more about the animals and harvesting of crops, and ultimately where food for humans comes from. Watching the birds making their nests and seeing the eggs and the chicks – and how the parents protect their young and feed them. They even have their own patch of grass where they can sow seeds, take care of them, and watch them grow.
The children learn to handle and care for domestic animals. Leading, riding, and grooming the ponies, putting plaits in their manes and tails, painting their hooves with glitter, and putting coloured stencils on their body. They also learn to respect the pony’s size and how they communicate with each other as well as with humans. Likewise, they learn how to interact with the dogs by brushing, feeding, walking, training, and playing with them. Some young people have also been able to tame the feral cat who lives on the farm with gentle persistence and patience. We also found kittens from a stray cat and nurtured them. They enjoy feeding the hens, collecting the eggs when they are still warm, noticing how different hens lay different coloured eggs. During lambing season, they have held and fed the new-born lambs.
Fun and educational experiences
The benefits from the above experiences are enormous, they are not only fun and educational, but they also offer valuable therapy by observing the animal’s behaviors and watching how they interact with each other. The routine and care involved in looking after animals offer a form of structure and naturally occurring boundaries. Whilst handling the animals and learning new skills the children’s self-esteem and confidence grow. The young people hugely benefit from one-to-one time which ensures a safe environment and over time helps them become more independent to carry out tasks on their own.
For some of the young people, their greatest achievement is overcoming their fears – it may be the size of the animals, the dark, or the fear of climbing on the high hay bales. As a result of their experiences the children are enthusiastic, and this often creates another interest i.e. in growing plants, painting, or photography. As time goes by the children often reflect on previous experiences and sometimes want to revisit them.
Whilst day to day life goes on, the most important fact is that at all times the children are creating memories, life skills, and forming attachments.
Aberlour Foster Carer and Farm Owner