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About Small Strides

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Small Strides, founded in 2014 by Jenny MacSharry, provides therapeutic interventions in nature with horse's. In 2012 recognizing the lack of options for therapeutic horsemanship in the local area, Jenny decided to explore this field further and underwent training with Horses Helping People. This decision marked the beginning of Small Strides' journey towards becoming Bristol's leading Trauma Informed Therapeutic Horsemanship Centre.

Over the years, Small Strides has established itself as a trusted and respected organization, licensed as an Alternative Provision for Bath & North East Somerset and Wiltshire local authorities. This recognition enables us to accept referrals from various organizations, including CHAMS, NHS, GPs, Pupil Referral Units, Schools as well as private referrals, ensuring that our services reach those who need them the most.

Conveniently located in Beach, between Bristol and Bath, Small Strides is easily accessible to both rural and urban groups. This strategic location enables us to cater to a wide range of individuals, regardless of their geographical background. Our commitment to inclusivity and accessibility is at the core of our mission, and we strive to make our services available to as many people as possible.

While our activities with the horses primarily focus on groundwork rather than riding, there is still immense value in simply being in the presence of horses; they have a unique ability to connect with humans on a deep emotional level, providing a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to explore their emotions and develop essential life skills, all while having fun.

Over the past 10 years we have seen the positive impact of partnering with horses in nature, to facilitate healing and personal growth. Our team of dedicated facilitators are trained in trauma-informed practices, working with Neurodivergent and SEN children, and are passionate about supporting individuals on their journey towards improved mental health and well-being.

Through our innovative Equine Facilitated Learning programs, we aim to empower individuals to overcome challenges, build resilience, and develop a greater sense of self-awareness. By engaging with the horses and participating in various therapeutic activities, individuals can learn valuable life skills such as communication, trust, empathy, and emotional regulation.

Small Strides CIC is proud to be at the forefront of Trauma Informed Equine Facilitated Learning in Bristol. We are committed to making a positive impact on the lives of individuals and communities, and we look forward to continuing our work in providing therapeutic interventions in nature for years to come.

In our practice, we prioritize building strong and meaningful relationships with our clients. We understand that the therapeutic relationship is the foundation upon which growth and change can occur. By creating a safe and supportive environment, we aim to establish trust and rapport with our clients, allowing them to feel comfortable and open to exploring their thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

Furthermore, we recognize the unique role that horses play in our work. Horses are incredibly perceptive and sensitive animals, capable of mirroring and responding to human emotions and behaviors. 

They have a natural ability to sense and respond to the energy and intentions of those around them. This makes them powerful partners in therapy, as they can provide immediate and honest feedback to our clients.

We believe that horses, like humans, have their own thoughts, feelings, and desires. By treating them as equal partners and respecting their autonomy, we empower them to express themselves and make choices in our sessions. This includes giving them the opportunity to give consent in all interactions, ensuring that they are active participants in the therapeutic process.

Our Ethos

We believe Equine Facilitated Therapeutic Interventions, healing and growth should not be at an expense of another for the animals and the humans participating in the experience.

We promote principles of trauma-informed care and an understanding of mammalian nervous systems and mammalian attachment needs through a trauma lens, which are applied to all participating in our programs, both horses and humans. At Small Strides, we believe the horse is not a tool, mirror or co therapist. Horses are horses and our equal partners in the relational process.

 

The horses have a right to choose and voice their opinions. We ask for consent when working with them and they have the right to choose to say no, walk away and not participate in our sessions. Are ethos is the relationship comes first and if it's not good for one it's not good for another. They are sentient beings with a nervous system, history, personality, attachment patterns, coping mechanisms who offer us the potential for relationships.

Relationships are where we can delve deep and learn about ourselves and others. In these relationships we are also able to experience an offer co-regulation and develop self-regulation. Partnering with the horses and building these relationships we are able to explore our relational patterns, management strategies, and nervous system survival responses, as well as repair attachment ruptures and renegotiate trauma.

What to Expect on your first visit

Upon your arrival, you will receive a warm welcome from either Jenny or Louisa, our facilitators. You may also encounter our friendly dog, Nala, or our cat, Pixie, who often accompany us. If you have any concerns about dogs, please inform us in advance, and we can make arrangements to keep her in the office during your visit.

 

We will then introduce ourselves, the animals, and take you on a tour of the yard to meet the horses. Throughout the visit, we prioritize our clients' comfort and enable them to determine the level of interaction they desire with the horses.

 

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We understand the apprehension that comes with starting something new, so we strive to create a safe and supportive environment where our clients feel heard. If there is anything that our clients are unhappy with, we are always willing to listen and provide alternative options.

 

The initial session primarily focuses on establishing a strong therapeutic relationship between the client, facilitator, and horses, as well as the importance of safety both in the immediate environment and as a felt sense within, this all forms the foundation for future progress. 

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