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Horse of the Year Show reveals 2019 charity

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The Centaurus Trust has been chosen to be the Official Charity of the Year for Horse of the Year Show 2019. The Centaurus Trust works in partnership with Equine Learning CIC to provide therapeutic horsemanship opportunities to disabled and disadvantaged adults, young people and children in Warwickshire, Worcestershire and across the UK. The charity will feature in the NEW Therapy Area as part of the Meet the Horses Zone in the Retail Village at HOYS, where visitors will have the exciting opportunity to meet and interact with two of their therapy ponies. The charity will also provide daily demonstrations in the new feature area, explaining the mental health and personal development benefits of the work they do and demonstrating the effects it has had on the young people they have worked with.

The charity was started in 2007 as a community project lead by Nicola Hepburn, who was first introduced to equine therapy when she volunteered for a local RDA group. In 2005, Nicola trained in Equine Facilitated Learning, something which she found to be completely life changing and sparked her desire to do more. For her 30th birthday she held a fundraising event which generated £500 and was enough to get the community project underway. Nicola began by offering equine facilitated learning sessions to local disabled and disadvantaged people with her own two horses and a pony. In 2007, Nicola gave up her full-time job in order to commit more time to running the project, as well as studying for a degree in Equine Studies.

The community project continued and in 2008 Nicola set up Equine Learning CIC (Community Interest Company) which enabled her to open her first yard, with four stables, an indoor school and five acres of land. Once she gained her riding establishment license, she began offering lessons through Equine Learning which helped to fund the community project. In 2009 the community project developed into the Centaurus Trust Charity (registered charity number 1133212) which works in partnership with Equine Learning to offer personal development through horsemanship to anyone who may benefit, with a particular focus on children and young people with autism and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. In the summer of 2010, Equine Learning hosted their first Horse Boy camp, which is a therapeutic method of working with children with autism developed by Rupert Isaacson and his son Rowan. Nicola trained as a Horse Boy practitioner and Equine Learning continues to offer Horse Boy camps throughout the year during school holidays.

In 2014, Nicola moved to the beautiful new and much larger premises of Wootton Park Estate where she started to run more camps with over 20 horses and ponies. The following year the organisation secured lottery funding through Sport England to help build more facilities and five years on, after a lot of hard work and determination, the centre has a team of 10 members of staff and volunteers who help Nicola to deliver the incredible ethos of the Centaurus Trust Charity and Equine Learning.

Nicola commented on her achievements: “It has been a rocky road to get to where we are now, but when a client tells me how they or their child has benefited from our services that makes everything worthwhile, and that is why we do it, to make a positive difference to people’s lives. We currently offer fully funded sessions to a local group of children with autism, a group for children with hearing impairments as well as individuals. We run our Inspiring Riding Project which offers affordable horse riding lessons and Pony Club sessions to local children and we also run alternative education programmes to young people, mostly with autism. As Equine Learning, we work in partnership with Haddon Training to provide qualifications in Horse Care and Riding and Animal Care offered to young people who are out of education.

“We are blown away to be chosen as the Charity of the Year for such a huge event that is HOYS and we are so excited to be coming along to showcase what we do. It is such a fantastic opportunity for us to raise awareness of our work and the personal development benefits which therapeutic horsemanship provides. The most exciting part for us is that we are able to bring some of the young people we work with along, allowing them to showcase their skills which will be such a confidence boosting experience for them. Working with a horse who is happy to build a partnership is hugely rewarding and empowering for anyone, but especially for those who can benefit from the confidence and relationship building which it provides. We will be in the Therapy Zone every day at HOYS, so please come along and speak to us to find out more.”

Event Director, Emma Wardell, said, “We are delighted to be supporting a small yet mighty charity that is the Centaurus Trust this year at Horse of the Year Show. Having visited Nicola at the centre and having had the opportunity to meet some of the volunteers and young people which the charity supports, it really is incredible what they do. HOYS is all about ‘The Ultimate Celebration of the Horse’ and what better way to celebrate the horse, than by sharing the life changing therapeutic benefits they offer to support our mental health and well-being. I am really excited to welcome Nicola and her team to the show this year and I would encourage all of our visitors to head over to the Therapy Area in the Meet the Horses Zone to find out more and meet these special little ponies.”

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