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Horsing Around for Autism: Positive effects of equine therapy

Sister Mary-Joy with Camargue PonyHORSING around is helping youngsters with autism to improve in leaps and bounds. 

The equine-therapy programme at an inner-city stable block, which sits in the shadow of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs in west London, is helping autistic children to overcome the issues of social interaction and communication that are so prevalent in the condition. 

Volunteers at the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre (WSPC) Horsing Around for Autism have seen smiles appear on the most serious of faces and an agitated or distressed child instantly calmed when taking to the back of one of the centre’s horses or ponies. 

Though more research needs to be done to assess the true value of equine therapy on children with autism, centre manager Sister Mary-Joy Langdon is in no doubt about the positive effects of her beautiful animals on the autistic children that visit her centre, which started life in 1989 as a patch of grazing land with no electricity, no phone line and three Shetland ponies that had been abandoned when the once booming local rag and bone trade went into decline. 

Mary-Joy, who incidentally was Britain’s first female firefighter before becoming a nun and pony-centre manager, said: “We can see that children with autism benefit enormously from coming into contact with our ponies and horses. The transformation is often breathtaking and always completely magical.”


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