Ponies boost pupils' mental health at East Finchley school

Equine therapist Lotte Carlebach with her ponies

Equine therapist Lotte Carlebach with her ponies - Credit: Archer Academy

An East Finchley school is using the power of ponies to boost the mental health of its pupils.  

The Archer Academy has been running equine therapy – interacting with horses for psychological benefits – to support children’s wellbeing during lockdown.  

The school is now asking the local community for fundraising support so that it continue to run the programme beyond its initial three sessions, run by Lotte Carlebach. 

Senior assistant headteacher Jo Mahoney said: “It’s wonderful to watch the students interacting with the ponies; it has a truly calming effect on them, which is just what they need after the upheaval of the last year or so.

“But it’s more than that; Lotte is also teaching them about the ponies’ herd dynamics which supports them to navigate the group dynamics they encounter at school.”

One of the ponies at Archer Academy

One of the ponies at Archer Academy - Credit: Archer Academy

The sessions are held at the school, which has more than 800 students, and campuses in Stanley Close and Beaumont Close.  

During the project students interact with the ponies in a mindful way, helping develop their self-awareness, communication skills, empathy and self-esteem. 

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Encouraging those in the community to chip in if they can, Ms Mahoney continued: “We’re already seeing the positive impact after just a few sessions, and we would love to be able to continue, but it’s not something that the school budget will cover.  

“It would be brilliant if a member of the wider community, or perhaps people or organisations within the equine world, would be willing to help.  

“We’re keeping our fingers – and hooves – crossed.” 

The school says it takes its students’ mental health “incredibly seriously”. It has secured grants for initiatives supporting wellbeing including counselling, art therapy sessions, and training for staff and students.  

“Covid-19 has been hard for everyone, but it’s fair to say that some of our students have struggled more than others,” Ms Mahoney said.  

“We are determined to do everything we possibly can to help them settle back into school life, and overcome the trauma of the last 18 months, and equine therapy is a brilliant solution.” 

For more information on the programme or to donate, email Angela Hay at Ahay@Thearcheracademy.org.uk

Sessions at the school help develop students' communication and self-esteem

Sessions at the school help develop students' communication and self-esteem - Credit: Archer Academy