Pony Camp Innovation Helps Adopted Children To Make Long Lasting Connections

1st August 2023
Horse-riding session in progress

The Post-Adoption Service in the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust recently arranged ‘Pony Camp’ sessions for children who have recently been adopted, to give them an opportunity to socialise with other children who have also experienced the adoption process.

A series of four very enjoyable sessions were hosted by Ballyknock Stables in Hillsborough. The children who attended the sessions, learned about the mental health benefits of horse-riding and how to take care of the animals. The sessions also helped encourage the children to develop empathy and problem solving skills.

The interactive nature of the ‘Pony Camp’ was a perfect setting for the children to interact with their peers, this improved their communication skills and built their self-confidence, resulting in each person becoming more vocal within the group as the sessions progressed. They all enjoyed the experience and felt a real sense of accomplishment at the end of the camp, after mastering a new set of unique skills.

This innovative programme also gave their adoptive families the chance to meet each other, helping them build up informal networks of support. The difference in their demeanour was noted by their families, one delighted parent explained, “I was so happy to see my daughter interact with other children, she has been struggling with anxiety at school, so to see her riding horses in a calm and relaxed manner was just so wonderful.”

Another parent who also witnessed a very positive change in their child’s outlook commented, “I have not seen them smile so much in such a long time, it has been amazing to watch them transform from a nervous to a very confident rider in a few weeks.”

Head of Service, Nuala Hanna added, “The Post Adoption Service works closely with families to tailor packages of support that will meet the needs of our adopted children and young people. This is a brilliant example of how horse-riding can benefit our children socially, emotionally and physically. The Post Adoption Service will continue to deliver new and innovative ways of supporting the needs of our adopted children and their families to help them reach their full potential.”

Horse-riding has been proven to increase self-confidence, balance, coordination and reduce anxiety by lowering the levels of the stress related hormone cortisone in the body. The rhythmic nature of horse-riding also has a therapeutic effect on the brain, as it releases endorphins and promotes good mental health.