Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, MLA, has visited Gortilea Social Farm in Claudy to view hippotherapy, a form of equine assisted therapy and learning in action.
Gortilea Social Farm is run by Clare McMonagle and her family. It was opened in 2014 by Clare’s father, Seamus, who continues to be heavily involved in day to day activities. Many vulnerable adults avail of a wide range of activities at Gortilea including caring of livestock, planting crops, cookery and crafts. These activities give them with an awareness of the land on which they work and sustainability of same.
During his visit, Minister Poots said: “Visiting Gortilea’s farm today has given me a great insight into the practice of hippotherapy and the contribution it makes to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the people taking part. It is quite phenomenal.
“Using the horse as a support tool under the umbrella of equine assisted therapy and learning has proved an exciting new initiative in the equine world, offering much needed therapy and counselling to vulnerable members of our society.
“I would like to thank Clare McMonagle and her team for showing me how hippotherapy is used at Gortilea Farm in a therapeutic manner to meet the various needs of young adults in her local community.
“My Department is currently working to progress a Strategy for the Equine Sector in Northern Ireland. The development and promotion of Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning will be a key component of that Strategy.”
Clare McMonagle, Occupational therapist and director of Gortilea Social Farm CIC said: "We have been delivering social farming since 2014 and continue to see first-hand the benefits of the utilising the farm as a therapeutic setting for those who have additional support needs.
Recognising the benefits of hippotherapy in practice, I developed the first Equine Assisted Occupational Therapy centre in Northern Ireland in 2016. Hippotherapy uses the natural movement of the horse during walking to replicate the sensory input/motor output of the human pelvis during active walking. Supported by funding from the Department, we have been able to evidence the holistic benefits of Equine Assisted interventions as part of Occupational Therapy practice and the life changing impact it can have.”
Notes to editors:
- Gortilea Social Farm is run by Clare McMonagle and her family. It was opened in 2014 by Clare’s father, Seamus, who continues to be heavily involved in day to day activities. Many vulnerable adults avail of a wide range of activities at Gortilea including caring of livestock, planting crops, cookery and crafts. These activities give them with an awareness of the land on which they work and sustainability of same.
- The 2019 Deloitte analysis of the NI equine sector identified Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning (EATL) services as a key theme for development. Following that analysis, the Department is currently working on the development of a Strategy for the Equine Sector in Northern Ireland. A Cross-Governmental Equine Strategy Steering Group has been established to inform its development. It is anticipated that EATL will be a key component of the Strategy. The Strategy will be subject to public consultation in due course.
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