1-801-754-0400 equine@eagala.org

Equine Enrichment in Northern Ireland Spotlight

by | Dec 1, 2020 | Eagala Business, Therapy With Horses

Who is Equine Enrichment? 

Equine Enrichment was set up in January 2017 in Derry, Northern Ireland, as a non-profit Community Interest Company. Louise Moorhead and her team have a passionate mission to provide an innovative approach to mental health in Northern Ireland. Their programmes are aimed at improving mental, physical and social well-being through equine-assisted personal development and therapeutic interventions.

As an organisation over the past number of years, we have been working tirelessly to promote Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy & Learning at a local level; operating on a part time basis hiring space at local yards offering our programmes to children, young people, adults, people with disabilities, families and older people. 

We have created a strong database of referral agents throughout the statutory, community and voluntary sectors who are all keen for their clients to avail of our services, over time it became apparent we needed to source a full time space to expand and grow as an organisation and to meet the need.

This year, in partnership with two local charity groups, we have acquired space within a 9 acre Urban Park on the outskirts of the City Centre which will provide a home for the Equine Enrichment team – Buddy, Ozzy, Charlie & Jack. 

The Inner City Sanctuary is an innovative programme combining the symbiotic, therapeutic benefits of Equine Therapy with Creative Arts (Music, Art & Dance) and Horticulture therapies. We have received much support for the initiative from the local community and organisations across the City. 

This is such an exciting milestone for us but unfortunately due the ongoing pandemic we have been delayed slightly with our opening. We are now expecting to open our doors in the Spring of 2021!


What do you love about being an Eagala member?

Now that Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy is gaining more credibility as a mental health intervention, I find it more important than ever to belong to a governing body that promotes a standardized and replicable model of practice; a code of ethics which we must adhere to, as well as networking with fellow professionals which allows opportunities for shared learning, support and building supportive connections on a global scale.


How do you make it all happen?

As a non-profit Community Interest Company we are fortunate to have been successfully selected by a number of voluntary & community sector funders who are so supportive of our work; we are eternally grateful to each and everyone. 

Last year we received funding from The National Lottery Community Fund who has funded two of our recent programmes as well as the capital build at the Inner City Sanctuary. 

They selected us to take part in a regional public voting competition called The People’s Project and through our TV, media interviews  and voting campaign we were ecstatic to come runner up. 

The National Lottery then put us forward to Camelot who selected Equine Enrichment during their campaign highlighting the benefits of Animal Assisted Interventions and we were featured in 3 regional newspapers. 

We were successful in our application to the Ireland Funds, who were impressed with our results and selected us to feature on their Spring/Summer Connect magazine. 

We have also been funded a number of times by the Community Foundation of Northern Ireland and The Public Health Agency as well as Derry City & Strabane District Council, Department of Agriculture, Western Health & Social Care Trust, The Honourable The Irish, and UnLtd. We can’t thank them enough for believing in us and the work we do!


How are you making an impact? 

Each person’s experience with us is completely unique to them. We have received so much positive feedback from clients, their families, teachers and community groups so to highlight just one is a difficult task so I would like to share the journey of our Peer Mentor, Roisin.

We met Roisin during a difficult time at school when she was about to start exams that would affect her future career in childcare. As a result of this, her confidence plummeted, she couldn’t talk to anyone about how she was feeling, she wasn’t attending school, didn’t know what to do and was worried about her future. 

It was at this point she came to take part in a 6 week Equine Assisted Learning programme. Her initial introduction with the horses left her very fearful and unwilling to engage or go anywhere near the horses. 

She now, laughingly admits to being initially “freaked as I took one look at Big Buddy and thought – there’s no way I’m going anywhere near him!”

Each week, Roisin returned and built a relationship with the biggest horse we have and made a friend for life. She says “being with Buddy just feels right; it makes me feel happy and relaxed and when I feel relaxed so does Buddy. It’s like our emotions feed off each other. The sessions with Equine Enrichment gave me so much confidence and self awareness. Now I make a point of recognising when I’m stressed and enjoying the good things and not focusing so much on the bad. I now know that if I can overcome my fear of horses, I can do anything!”

Since completing the 6 week course, Roisin was keen to stay involved and requested the opportunity to help out and volunteer. 

With some additional training and further experience, Roisin returned as a Peer Leader and co-delivered two 6 week programmes for children and young people from her local community, sharing her lived experience as well as providing guidance and support. 

She says this has helped her “build leadership skills and confidence; I have come full circle and now as a peer leader I can share my experiences with younger kids- I think young people listen better to other young people’s experiences.”

Roisin then attended our Local Regional College where she excelled and exceeded all our expectations, she even won the UK’s aspirational learner of the year in 2019!

We couldn’t be anymore proud!

Submit your own Spotlight!

Eagala Member Spotlight aims to feature our Eagala Certified Member programs to bring awareness to the powerful work our members are doing and to celebrate their successes!  If you and your Eagala program would like to be considered for our monthly Spotlight, click here to submit.  We look forward to hearing from you!