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Equine therapists need secret millionaire

By countrywalker  |  Posted: September 17, 2012

  • Special Horses or Special Children need help

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The staff and volunteers at Special Horses for Special Children are appealing to anyone out there who can be a serious sponsor of the life-changing work they are doing.They have been given a two week window in which to find a benefactor or Special Horses will have to be closed down and the horses sold.
I have followed Special Horses for Special Children since they set up in January last year at Scrapton Farm Wadeford near Chard, I met the Merry family from Taunton and was so impressed with the work that was done, I have volunteered as well.
The therapy started out based on the Horseboy method developed by Rupert Isaacson but has developed into much more than that and there is sensory work combined with horseplay, and simple circus tricks with children (and recently a few young adults). The subjects with autism, Aspergers, neurologocal disorders and behavioural problems associated with everything from extreme bereavement, to bullying and family break up react well to contact with horses in this way.
The,results have been life changing, not only for the problem youngsters but for their siblings and parents who are often extremely stressed . Siblings can also enjoy horseplay and have some fun while the other is being treated and the parents are encouraged to allow the staff to do the work and take a break, they are also given sound advice by the founder Lilias Ahmeira, herself the mother of an autistic who has lectured worldwide about the condition. The centre won the Somerset Chamber new business of the year award last year.
Lilias was so passionate about setting up this centre that she has put all her time and money into getting it to the stage it has now reached where more and more school and families are lining up to bring their most difficult cases that no one else will take, or that they have reached the end of their rope over. These are not just local families, some will drive six hours to be there just for a half day.  Also learning disabilities students from Lufton College not only come there to ride but also to volunteer working the grounds.
Lilias' forward plan is to provide boot camps, weekends or even whole weeks when families can stay in yurts onsite and not have to worry about a long drive for a few days . Staying in accommodations such as B&Bs are out of the question when children have such extreme behaviour. Often they are screaming, punching spitting and worse when they arrive but the contact with the horses calms them.
For the last year Lilias has been trying to get charitable status  but due to the rules of the charity commission, a separate  entity had to be created for fear of her losing her farm, as it is also her home, if there was a problem with the trustees at a later date. The Friends of Special Horses for Special Children was  finally set up in June but donations to it can only by accessed by Lilias to pay her staff and expenses, once a family has applied to the charity for their help in coming to the sessions and then actually have their time there. Hence it is a slow process for payment as the trustees have to agree on a family's eligibility and then they have to make an appointment and use it before the money is released.
In order to get going, before families(often one parent and not well off) could have access to the charity grants, Lilias under charged, hoping the charity would be set up quickly. She also put money into designing a unique saddle to allow double riding with a child but then sadly the horse it was made for had to be put down recently. Now she has simply run out of money as the last of her resources ironically went on solicitors to set up the charity. Consequently she hit a crisis point on Thursday when she said the charity was too little too late and she would have to shut down.
Immediately all the staff and volunteers have rallied around and are putting out a plea, they all say this work is too important to stop, there is nowhere else like this in the country, and even though most of them have already been offered jobs elsewhere on the back of the training they have received, they do not want to leave.
 There are plenty of plans for future fundraising but unless they get through this tunnel to the light they know is ahead, the horses will be sold and the whole operation lost forever. A lump sum injection is needed to see them through and they desperately need a sponsor.

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