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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Racehorses to the rescue for Cumbrian trauma victims

Retired racehorses are helping trauma victims overcome their past problems thanks to a new project which pairs up the two.

Westlinton racehorse rescue photo
The Racehorse Rescue Centre, near Westlinton

The Racehorse Rescue Centre (RCC) at Westlinton, a few miles north of Carlisle, is already having a positive impact on the lives of people affected by trauma, including former soldiers.

Now the charity has started to take patients from the local NHS, which has formally recognised the beneficial and calming effects that working with horses can have.

Nigel Wood, 54, from the charity, explained that the charity was founded four years ago to help just some of the many horses that otherwise would have gone to a slaughterhouse after ending their racing career.

“Every year, we have around 5,000 horses coming out of racing, usually aged between two and three years old,” said Nigel, a former property manager and developer.

“Of those horses, around half will usually go to slaughter, yet a thoroughbred can live to be 35 years old.

“But it’s well known that working with these animals can have big health benefits, helping people to overcome trauma or depression or other mental health issues.

“We’ve had injured soldiers come to our centre to work alongside us, and you can see how working with horses helps build people’s confidence. There seems to be a real connection between people and these horses.

“Now, we are taking patient referrals from the NHS, from the local community mental health team.”

The charity current cares for 10 horses – six former racehorses and four ponies.

Nigel’s hope is that one day the charity’s model of caring for these creatures while using their special qualities to help trauma and depression victims will be replicated at centres across the country.

“I feel that we’re unique in that we both rescue horses and then use them for therapy to help people,” he said.

In recent months, the charity’s profile has been raised via it’s Facebook page, which has more than 50,000 followers. That allowed it to raise funds to rescue three racehorses from North East.

Nigel said: “They belonged to a trainer who was going bust. He didn’t have the funds to pay his bills, so he was planning to send them to slaughter which would have brought him in £750.

“So we had campaign and raised half of it almost straight away.

“We’re getting calls every day so there’s a big need and in the future we want to work with more veterans.”

The charity currently has 14 volunteers and is looking for a patron and faces a constant battle to raise funds it needs to keep going – currently at a cost of around £20,000 a year.

Many of the slaughtered former race horses are destined for dinner plates in France.

To find out more, log on to www.racehorserescue.org.uk.

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