Spirit of the Herd was founded by Val Kear in 1993, when Val took on her first rescue pony, Humbug the Shetland (he is still going strong out on our loan scheme!). Since then, the sanctuary has moved between a couple of sites, and has now settled in Alvanley, just above the town of Helsby. Val found that being around the horses and ponies made a huge difference to people's mental health and general happiness, and was especially helpful to those with learning needs such as autistic spectrum disorder.
Nowadays, our focus is on how people and our ponies can help each other. Every week, students with learning disabilities from Petty Pool College come to work with the ponies, and have been really enjoying their time with us. The local Cub group are also carrying out activities to obtain their their 'horse care' badges. Many local people with mental health conditions and low self-confidence have been helped by being around our ponies and the calm, tranquil atmosphere at Spirit of the Herd.
We are working to increase the number of people that we can help, and are fund-raising to enable us to do this. We are applying for funding opportunities to allow us to improve our facilities for both visitors and the horses, so that this can be a year-round endeavour. One of our volunteers is certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), and plans to begin working with a psychotherapist and the ponies to help more people.
Our current volunteers
We have a number of regular volunteers who help out in a variety of vital ways; each person brings something different. Most people help with general horse care and handling, and have a particular pony to take care of. Others help with events, or help with fund-raising, social media, teaching, and general maintenance of the sanctuary.
Our volunteers have a range of backgrounds; some have formal equine qualifications, others lots of practical experience, and others with skills such as working with children and conducting equine-assisted therapy. A number of people come to us to learn about how to work with horses.