This month we’ve caught up with Lynne Henry, founder of Think Like Pony (TLAP), a unique education and riding centre that empowers young children and helps them develop emotionally, mentally and physically. Earlier this year, we awarded TLAP a Looked After Children grant to support their work with Leeds Social Services and looked after children in care.
The school provides opportunities to young people, particularly looked after children in care. What skills do you think TLAP gives to those involved? What are the benefits?
Children are motivated to develop the critical skills needed to thrive in life. They learn to be mindful and to take control of themselves on a mental, emotional and physical level. We are more similar to the horse than you might imagine. By learning how horses communicate and form relationships, children reflect and improve on their own communication and relationship skills.
In essence, these leadership skills are social and communication skills that can be transferred to any other area of life.
This creates positive change in a young person’s life in a variety of ways:
1) Learning Critical Life Skills: improving communication skills, the ability to problem-solve, avoid confrontation, and forward planning.
2) Experiencing Positive Changes: becoming more engaged in learning, being more respectful towards others, developing self-respect and taking responsibility for their own actions.
3) Overcoming Fears and Anxieties: developing confidence, self-esteem, a more positive outlook, and learning to trust others.
How has Leeds Community Foundation’s Looked After Children’s grant supported the project? What are the outcomes and what difference has it made?
The grant made it possible for us to work intensively with 6 highly troubled looked after children over 3 days. These children were referred to the project due to the severe social, emotional and mental health problems they were facing.
Throughout the 3 days, each child had the opportunity to build a relationship with and learn to ride a pony that they chose. Each had their own mentor who helped to guide their experience, encouraging each child to develop a vision for how they would transfer the leadership skills they developed to challenges they faced in their everyday life. Each child developed their confidence, communication skills and ability to form positive relationships in life-transforming ways.
What can you do at Think Like a Pony?
Our individuality, our personal challenges and the way in which we deal with problems play a vital role in how we interact with the horse. This can create a very powerful experience for a young person. This experience becomes a platform to overcoming personal adversity, taking control of their own future and learning to develop relationships.
How did you get into running a community focused riding school?
Learning to ride alongside my children, I could quickly see the powerful effect horses had on their lives and my own. Through this, I developed a vision to create a specialist horsemanship centre that would empower children from all walks of life.
I have spent the past 20 years working towards this vision, writing educational materials, training staff, developing our facilities and investing in the health and training of our ponies, each of whom has been rehabilitated from poor health and trauma themselves.
What’s coming up for Think Like a Pony?
We currently have a very exciting development in the Think Like a Pony pipeline!
Our centre has grown organically around my home. Over the past years, myself and my husband have shared our home in order in order to show what can be achieved by the Think Like a Pony approach, so much so that we even transformed part of the home into a temporary classroom!
We have now had so many referrals of children in need to the service that we are bursting at the seams. We have a planning application in with Leeds City Council in order to build a purpose built centre on part of our land. This is going to be a facility that will offer life-changing experiences to children in Leeds and Bradford for years to come.