Mane Chance Sanctuary, founded in 2011, is a charity rescue center for horses in Surrey, England. While it is a beautiful haven for previously abused horses now, founding trustee, actress Jenny Seagrove, says the sanctuary all started out of a crisis.
In August 2011, Seagrove received a phone call from an acquaintance who was caring for forty horses, sheep, birds, cats, dogs, a cow and a goat and was struggling to feed all the animals. Although Seagrove didn’t have any formal set up to care for the animals, she didn’t hesitate to step in and do all she could to help these animals in need. A little over a month later, she formed a registered charity, Mane Chance Sanctuary, and took on the responsibility of all the animals.
The next challenge was to find a proper space to home all of the animals – and the new sanctuary staff. Seagrove was acquainted with a landowner in Compton, a nearby village in Surrey, who was selling his farm. The farmer agreed to rent out his land for free until a permanent buyer was found, and with that Mane Chance Sanctuary began!
In the spring of 2012, Seagrove officially bought the land on which the Mane Chance Sanctuary was first established, and the organization became a designated safe haven for rescued horses. Unlike other horse rehabilitation facilities, Mane Chance focuses on both the physical and emotional health of the animals in their care. In an effort to heal the emotional wounds of the horses that come to the sanctuary, Seagrove enlisted the help of well-known animal communicator and Reiki master, James French, together with his life partner Shelley Slingo.
With the help of Slingo and French, the sanctuary has developed into much more than a place for horses to retire, but has become a bonafide refuge where both horses and people can find the care and compassion they need to heal.
Healing Horses Through Trust
One of the largest hurdles that rescuers have to overcome with the horses in their care is getting them to trust humans again. Many have come from abusive backgrounds and are very wary of new people. French, however, has developed a simple “Trust Technique” system that he uses to teach the horses to let go of their fear and accept the help of the people around them.
“Step one is to teach the horse the present moment,” French tells One Green Planet. “By using what we call mindful regard I reduce the thinking level of the horse at the horses pace. This requires using the present moment and watching the horses response and working with a simple system that allows them to become peaceful. Usually with very damaged horses this is done by being with them at a quite time in their day.”
By introducing yourself as someone who is calm and non-threatening, horses will feel comfortable around you and slowly grow to trust you. The next step is working with not only the present moment but with present actions too.
“I can start to show the horse the basics, i.e. having a halter placed on, working with lifting feet, walking next to the person,” says French. “All these actions are done with peace of mind at the animals pace. So if their mind increases, then we return to the present moment, and when they are peaceful the actions start again. This shows the horse how to be peaceful with these actions and show the person how to work at the horse’s true pace. This in turn creates a listening environment that is full of trust.’’
The third and final step is, as French describes it, “The Sky is the Limit.” With the trust shared between a human and a horse, incredible things can happen.
It wasn’t long before the Mane Chance team realized that their work with horses could also be beneficial to people – specifically, children in need of emotional support. One story, in particular, confirms this.
A couple of years ago, a few special needs teenagers visited the sanctuary. One of the girls was a selective mute, who refrained from touching and struggled to maintain eye contact. Shelley introduced the young girl the little Shetlands and while initially afraid of horses, within an hour, the girl had started grooming and interacting with the Shetlands through looks and gestures. She was then acquainted with “the family” – Gwen and Phyllis, mother and daughter and Blue Boy and Bobbie Tulsa, their foals.
“Gwen is possibly the most damaged and sensitive horse on the park and Phyllis at that time had a deep mistrust of people- although not as bad as that of her mother,” says Seagrove. “The girl, having met Blue Boy and Bobbie, walked down the field to fetch a bucket and to our amazement Phyllis chose to follow her. The two of them had formed a real connection and Phyllis obviously sensed a kindred soul – this a mare who went out of her way to avoid contact with people! It was a wonderful moment.”
Clearly, animals and people are connected. It’s just about learning to respect and trust them. To live in the present moment with them and to learn from them.
Healing Knows No Boundaries
With this incredible mindset and technique, Mane Chance Sanctuary has extended their mission of healing and compassion throughout the local area. Seagrove helped set up a relationship with The Shooting Star Chase charity and started an equine healing program with children at a nearby hospice called Christophers’. During the summer months, children from Christophers’ come and visit with the horses on a weekly basis, building amazing, loving relationships with the animals.
The sanctuary also regularly hosts children from local special needs schools and students on the Duke of Edinburgh Awards program to come and interact with the horses and learn from them.
The same compassion and trust that helps the horses in the sanctuary’s care overcome their fears and thrive is also extremely beneficial to the children who come and visit the sanctuary. Check out this video below to learn more about the amazing work this organization does:
“Thinking separates us from others beings, our environment and this in turn causes us suffering,’’ French tells One Green Planet. “Holding a space of no thought, present or mindfulness reconnects us to others, our environment and ourselves. When an animal or person can see the same situation that used to frighten them in a trusting and confident way, then the new actions that they take are literally life changing. This is what I would say is the psychology of healing.’’
It is true that the pain and suffering felt by animals is easily compared to that of humans. By learning to foster trust and love in one, the same can be done in the other to lead to a mutually beneficial relationship grounded in healing.