Sarah Stephens

Managing Director and Lead Facilitator

Spirit and Soul Equine Assisted Activity Centre, Derbyshire, UK



Equine Therapy:

What is it?

Equine assisted therapy, is a platform where a person, works with both a horse and a therapist/ facilitator in a therapeutic environment. Many services are ground based (ours is) but some offer ridden activities. It's really gaining momentum and is cropping up all over the country and there are jobs for horses who no longer can be ridden. Within sessions, the client's interactions with the horse, and the horse's reaction to them are used to help the client develop.



How does it work?

Horses are prey animals and in it's most simplest form, equine therapy uses their inbuilt reactions and responses to give a person an idea about themselves. Everyone who has been around horses knows that they can tell full well when you’re anxious, sad, angry etc. They actually do, they can sense our heart beat from 4 feet away, they can sent our emotional shifts, patterns, body language and react with instant feedback. In other words they’ll like you and be near you or protect them selves and move away. We have a mixed herd of horses, all warm blooded as it makes them more sensitive ( which we like) we keep them as naturally as possible, including living in a herd of 18, so that their reactions are subtle, yet honest. 



How does it benefit mental health?

I'll just use one example -  Imagine for a moment that you’ve had anxiety all your life, you’ve seen numerous doctors, therapists all in rooms in counselling buildings and all have trued to explain to you how to control your anxiety. What your body does when it gets anxious and therefore what you should do next time you get anxious. That all well and good, until you don’t know what your body does and until the next time you get anxious you cant control it as it increases too quickly. Now place yourself in our round pen for a minute. As you enter, our horse sees your tense, the facilitator points this out- instant feedback. A tense body, is that a sign of anxiety increase? Then you calm that down and you enter further, at which point the horse moves away from you, your heart is pounding, which the horse has picked up. Again you have to deal with your pounding heart before you can proceed. You get close enough to the horse to stroke it/ walk with it, at which point the horse just freezes. Now within about 5 minutes that person has learnt more about what happens in their body when their anxiety increases and how to manage and control it as they have to do that on the spot than they will have ever learnt in a room.

The best bit about working with horses as your co facilitator is they feel the inside of a person. No one can say I feel fine as the horse may tell a different story.


About Spirit and Soul Equine Assisted Therapy Centre 


Spirit and Soul EAC is a non profit organisation based in Derbyshire, providing equine therapeutic services, including therapy, coaching, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and interactive learning opportunities with horses to promote positive mental health, wellbeing and team/personal development.

Spirit and Soul support people overcoming difficulties such as:

  • trauma
  • illness
  • dilemmas in life
  • low confidence/self esteem
  • stress and anxiety
  • loss/change of direction 

The organisation also works together with Macmillan care to provide a unique service, designed specifically for people living with and beyond Cancer.  One such programme run by Spirit and Soul is their  'Individual Equine Assisted Therapy for People living with or beyond cancer'.




This is a unique service, designed specifically for people living with and beyond cancer. Partnering with Macmillan Spirit and Soul are able to offer people four free individual sessions:

  • An opportunity to let go of treatment burden.

  • An opportunity to rebuild/ develop confidence and self-esteem.

  • An opportunity to engage with a non-judgemental service for support and self-development

  • An opportunity for empowerment and setting goals

The program includes access to four funded individual sessions over an 8-10 week period.  It is aimed at anyone struggling emotionally or unable to let go and move on, anyone living with and beyond cancer. 

For more information about the organisation, programmes available and fundraising support, please visit