The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Project shows healing power of pony interaction

A Christian outdoor therapy centre in South Norfolk featuring goats, chickens and rabbits has formed a partnership with Heart to Hand’s Cathy Koetsier to harness the healing power of pony interaction.

GUL Norfolk has offered outdoor therapy including time with small animals, wellness walks and outdoor crafts since it began in September 2020. Michelle Smith, founder of GUL Norfolk, has witnessed first-hand the unique aspects of human-horse interaction and it was her dream to see it offered in East Anglia.

Cathy Koetsier has owned horses for more than 30 years and she knows how good it is to live in their presence. When Michelle and Cathy met, they realised that their dreams of offering therapeutic opportunities for interaction with ponies dovetailed neatly, and that together they could make it accessible to people.

What We Do

Heart2HandPony750Pony Interaction sessions are tailored to the needs of the individual. Some people just want to 'be' in the presence of the ponies. Some want to groom them and participate in their care. Others want to understand a bit about the language of horses. And for some it becomes an absorbing passion that keeps them returning again and again. Cathy loves facilitating opportunities for people to interact with ponies in ways that help both parties feel safe. Relationship grows when we tune in to what horses are trying to share with us.

People find it very moving to be able to connect with horses with such intimacy. For many people it had not occurred to them that there was so much more to being in their presence than riding.

“One day, as I was busy mucking out I noticed that Jock was lying down, and Cathy said: “Why don’t you approach him and see if he will allow you join him. I walked towards him and knelt down and had the most amazing experience because I was able to put my arms around Jock’s neck and rest my face against his cheek. It was a precious time of relaxation and something I will never forget.”  

At Heart to Hand you can:
  • Discover more about yourself, relationship with God, and people through interacting with ponies
  • Learn about equine body language communication and psychology
  • Participate in Horse Agility training one on one or in a group
  • Learn postural and balance training for human and horse
  • Participate in equine therapy sessions (no riding)
  • Experience Masterson Method Equine bodywork ‘taster’ sessions
  • Enjoy pony parties, parent & toddler sessions and holiday clubs
Taster sessions, regular lessons and short courses are available. No previous horse experience is required. See the Facebook page or website for more details.

NHS workers

In Addition, GUL Norfolk and Heart to Hand are partnering to offer a lovely opportunity to frontline workers under HETI (Horses in Education International).

Dr Celia Grummitt who is leading the HETI(UK) initiative says: “We know that frontline workers are experiencing overload and exhaustion. We are looking to provide an effective horse-based intervention to allow accrued fatigue and unprocessed memories of very challenging work through the pandemic to begin to be processed. Evidence shows us that equines help us to process our emotions. Spending time with a horse can give frontline workers timeout to reconnect with themselves through connecting with horses and ponies and their sentient and sensitive interactions. These animals mirror emotions and moods and help people notice their own emotions, so allowing processing to take place.”

Each participant is offered four free sessions. We have received funding for two places and we would like to be in a position to offer more. Sessions cost £47.50, so four sessions comes to £190. If you feel you could sponsor a participant or even just sponsor one of the four sessions, please get in touch with us.

We would like to make this opportunity available to as many frontline workers as possible. (Frontline workers include NHS staff, teachers, social workers, caregivers and supermarket staff). Also, if you are a frontline worker and you have been affected by the Covid pandemic in any way, we would love to offer you the opportunity to destress in the company of the gentle-natured Heart to Hand ponies.

Contact Details:

Cathy Koetsier: Heart to Hand
Phone: 07899 687921
Email: cathy.H2H@outlook.com
Website: www.heart-to-hand.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Heart2HandUK

Michelle Smith: GUL Norfolk
Phone: 07746 933908
Email: michelle.smith@god-unlimited.org
Website: God-unlimited.org/gul-norfolk/

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