Camp Simcha is investing in horse-power to aid the wellbeing of some of the seriously ill children and siblings they support in Manchester.

Twelve children have benefitted from a month-long course of equine therapy with the charity, which supports families who have a seriously ill child.

The six boys and six girls attended four stables-based sessions run by HorseHeard, a charity which runs “experiential learning programmes with horses”, designed to promote wellbeing and build emotional resilience.

The youngsters, a mixture of seriously ill children and their siblings who are all supported by Camp Simcha, took part in the sessions at the HAPPA stables in Burnley.

“It was amazing to watch,” said Goldie Benedikt, Camp Simcha’s Manchester services coordinator. “The programme was based around how horses behave and how we can translate that into human interaction.”

Horses are known for being highly sensitive to their surroundings and adept at non-verbal communication.

Among other things, the programme aims to enable children to become more self-aware, work with others and boost their self-esteem.  They do this not by riding the animals, but by building relationships with them through grooming, exercising them and learning the different physical characteristics of horses, ponies and foals, among other things.

“Some of the children were a bit nervous around the horses at the beginning but they gained confidence to do different things,” said Mrs Benedikt.

“Throughout the course they learned about how you can tackle different obstacles and about how to interact and care for the horses. Everything came back to the discussion about self-belief and there was also an element of teamwork.”

This is the first time Camp Simcha has provided equine therapy in Manchester.

Daniel Gillis, Camp Simcha’s Head of Services, said: “Sometimes the children we support aren’t able – or don’t want – to put into words the feelings they are coping with.

“The equine therapy uses horses as a means to provide metaphoric experiences to help the children gain understanding and acceptance of their own emotions, especially for those children that are unable to verbalise how they are feeling.”

Under the guidance of two facilitators from HorseHeard, each session began with “circle time” and at the end of the event every child would set a goal for the week.

“Goals could be focused on anything going on in their day-to-day lives and usually came out of something they learned about themselves during the session,” she said.

Eleven-year-old Penina Stern was one of the participants. A pupil at Beis Yaakov High School, she benefits from Camp Simcha’s support for siblings, as her younger brother Ari has a rare, complex heart condition.

Penina was very fearful of the horses at first but her mother Rivka explained that she “gained so much from the equine therapy”.

“It was just incredible to see the transformation over the few weeks,” said Mrs Stern.

“She gained a lot of confidence from it and has been pushing herself and persevering when things are difficult, which was all from the equine therapy. She also loved being the only one of the family to do it and enjoyed spending time with the other Camp Simcha children.