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Collaborative working between Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and the Only Foals and Horses charity.

The Recovery College at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust Whalley are working with long-established Lancashire animal charity Only Foals and Horses, providing therapeutic sessions for service users.

Together, they are collecting data on how service users feel before and after the course sessions. The course will include both theory and practical sessions on horse care. The service users are from the step down unit at Mersey Care’s site in the village of Whalley and have learning disabilities and mental health issues. Only Foals and Horses is based in Oswaldtwistle and take in rescued horses, donkeys and other animals. They have been working alongside Occupational Therapist Dawn Robinson for two years. The course is currently being developed after service users gave anecdotal evidence of the therapeutic benefits and social inclusion they felt after attending and completing voluntary work at the charities stables.

The charity initially provided voluntary work for our service users then after service users described the benefits there was a meeting and it was decided to work collaboratively between service users, Occupational Therapy and the charity in developing a programme to collect measurable outcomes from the therapeutic benefits of animal therapy.

It was found service user’s level of communication whilst attending the stables improved. They also gained experience in team work, developing routines, and a sense of roles and responsibilities. They reported getting a great sense of achievement on completing the tasks set for them and felt that in accomplishing the work that it helped the horses. Therefore the joint partnership is now holding a seven week course for the service users, who have been working voluntarily there to give them the knowledge of horse care. They will then help to support, grade and adapt the course enabling other service users from the trust to attend. They will also act as a mentor to develop leadership skills gaining confidence while teaching

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