Darragh McCullough with Liskennett farm project manager, David Doyle, and chair of St Joseph's Foundation, Eamon McCarthy
SITTING in the heart of the Golden Vale, Liskennett Farm is home to 14 people with autism and 25 horses, but its influence extends right across the Mid West.
Located in Granagh, the farm was established five-years-ago by the Charleville based charity St Joseph’s Foundation to provide equine therapy for people with autism.
The farm featured on this week's Ear to the Ground, with Darragh McCullough visiting the facility.
Farm manager David Doyle, whose daughter has autism, says the therapy is much more than just animal-child interaction.
“The rhythm of the horse has an effect on the stress hormones in the child, giving them a chance to break the cycle of fear and allowing better communication”.
The farm provided 10,000 sessions last year and David Doyle says there is a great need for other centres around the country.
Darragh McCullough reports from this unique farm.
One of the many features of the equestrian centre is the Horse Boy Method.
According to the St Joseph’s Foundation website, The Horse Boy Method offered in Liskennett is much more than just a physical experience.
“While the movement of the horse is beneficial for improving circulation, muscle control, and coordination, there is also a strong bond between humans and horses.
“Humans have used horses for centuries. So it is not surprising that we now use horses for therapy. Horses are companion animals. They look to their riders/handlers for direction and affection.”
According to St Joseph’s, this interaction with the horse helps build communication skills.
“They are attuned to the smallest movement, attitude, and emotion; people cannot hide anything from a horse. Horses can tell if you are angry, nervous, happy, excited, tense, or relaxed and they respond accordingly. They aren’t demanding.
“They want to understand you and for you to understand them. Because of the trust they give, their fine-tuned responses, and desire to please, they are extremely effective in creating a bond with autistic riders that encourages communication and interaction.”
It is claimed that The Horse Boy Method will also aid in the development of relationships, not only with the horse but with people.
“Children and adults with autism who interact with their horse may extend this to others and to form meaningful relationships with people. Building a relationship with an animal is very rewarding in many aspects; for a person with an emotional, social or psychological disability, the trust, and loyalty of an animal demonstrates to the person how important they are and then they may extend these attributes to personal relationships.
“To learn how to care for and ride a horse, you must also be able to communicate efficiently with the horse and the instructor. In this way, riding is a very social activity, but is less daunting to people who are uncomfortable in social situations.”