Henfield-based ‘community herd’ urgently needs new home to help horses and young people

Equine Gentling Community Herd in Sussex has launched an urgent appeal for a new home to continue its charity work with horses and young people.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 5:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th July 2021, 6:50 pm

The community interest company, based at Truleigh Hill just outside Henfield, only has until August 26 to find 60 acres of land to support its long-term project.

Founder and director Dan Corbin, 43, from Brighton, is appealing to landowners or anyone who knows about land that they could use.

“We’d want to stay in Sussex, as close to Brighton as possible really,” said Dan, adding that they get visitors from towns across the county, including Hastings, Crawley, Horsham and Chichester.

Dan Corbin, founder and director of Equine Gentling Community Herd.
Dan Corbin, founder and director of Equine Gentling Community Herd.

He also hopes for enough land for 13 horses to graze on at a rate that promotes biodiversity, saying that the herd was previously based at Ditchling and, before that, Plumpton Green.

Dan is currently talking with Brighton & Hove City Council, as well as tenant farmers of council farms, to try to find the space they need.

“Maybe we could have a bit less if it was just going to be for a few months,” he said.

Equine Gentling Community Herd rehabilitates rescue horses, but also uses equine therapy to help young people with social, emotional or learning difficulties, as well as autism and mental health issues.

Dan said that ‘negative labelling’ exists in the horse world and, sadly, in the human world too with children and young people who are outside the ‘mainstream’.

“I normally get horses that have been deemed unmanageable,” said Dan, adding that he rehabilitates them by making them part of a herd and showing them kindness.

“If you give horses love and kindness they will always respond in that way,” he said.

“It’s environment and people that cause dangerous horses, not horses.”

Dan went on to say that mistreated horses usually react with ‘fight or flight’ attitudes, with the ‘fighters’ usually getting rehabilitated quicker.

“The horses that have lived in fear can take a little longer to regain your trust,” he said.

The community herd has received referrals from the NHS and also works with Horsham’s HOPE Charity Project, which supports young people’s mental health.

“I’d say the horses always facilitate our sessions, and I kind of ‘translate’ what they’re saying,” said Dan.

He said the kind of horses that come forward to see young people depends on the individual and that sessions can include sitting with them, grooming them or hugging them.

Making a connection with such a big animal can help boost confidence and self-awareness, while reducing anxiety, he said.

“It’s all very individual and I think what children and adults find to be the greatest thing about it is that the horses choose to have these moments,” said Dan.

But, he added, sometimes the horses choose not to, a decision that the team respects, and they will find another horse to take its place.

“The horses always choose what they want to do and what they don’t want to do,” said Dan.

“I think that’s one of the biggest lessons that our young people learn, that sometimes animals and people say ‘no’ and we have to respect that.”

Equine Gentling Community Herd has been collaborating with The HOPE Charity Project for years, a group that only exists online but offers counselling, therapy and emotional care.

“They are currently homeless as well so ideally we’d love to be in the same place as them, but it’s not the clincher,” said Dan, adding that they can still work with each other from a distance to help young people.

“These young people, they depend on us and not just for their mental health,” Dan added.

“It’s really about creating a family and a safe place as much as anything else for adults and children.”

Equine Gentling Community Herd offers after school sessions, joint family sessions and weekend activity sessions to help young people develop communication, enhance resilience and build trusting relationships.

Anyone who can help Equine Gentling Community Herd, or The Hope Charity Project can visit www.equinegentling.com or www.hopecharityproject.org.