A horse rescue centre in rural Carmarthenshire might not be the first place that comes to mind for anyone looking for human friendships or emotional support.
Katy Kear However, Equine Manager at Many Tears Equestrian, provides just that, by running a series of activities and groups with a specific focus on the mental and emotional health of the human participants.
Katy’s passions are looking after rescued horses, and supporting people who have faced struggles in their lives, and her work at Many Tears Equestrian has enabled her to combine these two loves.
She has recently established two new groups at the centre: a group for home educated children, and ‘Only Friends and Horses’, a group for adults dealing with mental health challenges or isolation, or who simply want to make friends.
Katy was delighted with the first meeting of ‘Only Friends and Horses’: “It was brilliant” she says.
“We had a lovely turnout of beautiful souls. Everyone had their own reasons for coming whether it be to meet the horses, make friends, learn tactics for dealing with mental health challenges or just to be part of something new.
“The afternoon involved meeting the horses, building a connection with them and learning some new skills for handling horses. Then we had coffee and cake, talked and cleaned tack. It was very relaxed, great company and a very accepting warm environment”.
“I was thrilled at the day and I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone regularly. I would like the group to grow in confidence, horse skills and gradually run the group between them. I want it to be a safe and welcoming place always”.
Katy’s evident understanding of emotional issues and her genuine desire to support those who find themselves struggling was borne out of her own personal experience.
She explains: “I have struggled with mental health and emotional health challenges in the past. I have suffered with debilitating depression, agoraphobia and anxiety during two difficult points in my life.
“At that time, I couldn’t see a way forward and at my worst it was my family that kept me going. Over time I built a foundation of coping skills and focussed hard on my personal development.
“I actually feel these experiences have made me a stronger, kinder and more empathetic person and I have so many ideas, tactics and knowledge in self-care and personal development that I know I can help.
“I get genuine happiness from helping others and seeing a smile gives me strength and determination to keep pushing for more from my time at the centre”.
Katy wanted to do something to tackle the stigma that still exists around emotional health issues. She has recently worked with some local people to make a short video where they are shown speaking honestly and bravely about their experiences of depression and anxiety.
“The focus of the video was to show some faces of mental or emotional health struggles and demonstrate that they can affect anyone. That a happy face can still have depression”, she explains.
“I wanted to show people confidently speaking out, claiming these challenges and not being ashamed. My goal was for people to watch it and realise that they are not alone, that it is ok to face challenges and does not make you any less of a person.
“I wanted to show Many Tears Equestrian for what we are: open-hearted, accepting of everyone and welcoming. We encourage authenticity and for our community to reach a point where they are happy to just ‘be’ themselves.
The warm, supportive and inspirational atmosphere at the centre is definitely something special. Katy’s compassion and empathy, along with the affection and gentleness shown by the horses, make this place a real treasure for humans and horses alike.
Anyone interested in joining the activities on offer can check out the Many Tears Equestrian Facebook page here:
With thanks to Katy and friends at Many Tears Equestrian for photos and videos