We are delighted to share details of Chance2Be, a new programme that we are currently developing at Mane Chance.

We have long understood the healing potential of horses, particularly when it comes to our herd. As you know, our horses have a special ability to engage with us in a lovely, calm way – well demonstrated when we welcome young people from Jigsaw+ or the children from Shooting Star Chase Hospice – that wonderful human-equine connection that occurs at Mane Chance so often.

Set in the tranquil surroundings of the Sanctuary, the aim of the programme is to bring together horses and young people, with mutual benefit. Young people may have low mood, anxiety, confidence and self-esteem issues or may simply want to learn relaxation techniques and they could all gain so much from time spent with our herd. This is not therapy in any form; instead an opportunity to teach those people who wish to learn how to approach things in a different way – in a bid to improve social skills, self-esteem or just to increase their ability to deal with life’s ups and downs. And all of this is done alongside our horses.

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A tried and tested practice, mindfulness is a hugely effective tool that can be used in everyday life. There are many courses running that have helped people greatly and this approach is a vital element of what we are proposing to offer at Mane Chance.

By combining a teaching of mindfulness practices, together with time spent using the skills learnt with our horses, we feel that our programme will be a unique set of sessions where people can form connections with our animals whilst learning a new way of coping with some of the challenges that life brings. It provides an opportunity to learn together and to experience, week by week, the very special relationship which can exist between humans and horses.

We are following a recognised mindfulness course structure, so that skills develop over the weeks, and as part of the sessions, these lessons are taken into the field with our herd and applied and developed with the horses acting as teachers too. Our herd provide a non-threatening, non-judgmental environment in which to learn. By actively studying the behaviour of the horses in their natural herd environment, and by using kindness based mindfulness meditations, the young people will be given tools which encourage compassion towards themselves and others.

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This is a hugely exciting project which is gaining real interest from professionals in many fields, notably the education and mental health sector. We believe that it will provide a unique opportunity for many children and young people to share friendship and compassion with our horses who have been through some very tough times themselves.

It is one way that we are able to complete our circle of care – help us help them – and is what Mane Chance is all about.

The programme has been developed by a trained mindfulness teacher, an equine behaviourist, a specialist teacher and a research student from the University of Sussex psychology department. There is a growing body of scientific research that underpins the efficacy of mindfulness based therapeutic work and animal/human therapeutic work. We believe that our combination of the two skills will be the start of a very exciting journey for many young people.

We aim to start offering this programme at Mane Chance in the autumn of 2017 – if you would like any further information regarding Chance2Be sessions, please email us at Chance2Be@manechancesanctuary.org

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