A South Hams charity that offers therapy and educational opportunities to young people using horses and other animals says it is seeing many youngsters struggling with their mental health and anxiety.

Sirona Therapeutic Horsemanship is based on the Dartington Hall Estate and works with disadvantaged and disabled young people.

A number of the horses they use are rescue animals, with the charity’s CEO Dr Hannah Burgon explaining: “Many of the young people who attend identify and empathise with the horses troubled pasts, so helping them reconnect with people.”

Sirona has a community open day on 22nd June. The days runs between 11-3pm and entry is by donation. It’s an opportunity to meet the horses and other animals together with lots of fun activities for all the family including horse-shoe painting and games, bric a brac and plant stalls and refreshments available on the day.

Sirona has had a very busy start to the year due to so many young people struggling with their mental health and anxiety at the current time.

The charity says the disconnection of young people from nature over the past decade, set with the background climate crisis, is connected to the huge increase in mental health issues in our young people.

The equine and animal-assisted sessions provide many opportunities to incorporate nature-based activities alongside learning about animal care.

One activity involves getting young people out exercising with the ponies for foraging walks and to appreciate the environment on the Dartington Hall estate.

Other activities include learning about the different plants the horses choose to eat whilst on a foraging walk, and picking some garlic leaves to take home – the first time many young people attending Sirona have ever done this - together with planting herbs for the horses, alongside other plants and flowers, and collecting eggs from the charity’s rescue hens. The aim is to give young people ways of bringing themselves into the moment in a safe way, whilst also learning to appreciate the natural world.

The Sirona team are all trauma informed, and receive monthly clinical team supervision with a qualified child psychotherapist.

Sirona Therapeutic Horsemanship (Sirona)