For almost 40 years The Avon Centre in Henbury, on the outskirts of Bristol, has been supporting disabled people to access the therapeutic benefits of spending time with horses.
The Centre in the 1980s
Not only are there physical benefits such as physiotherapy (relating to the building of core strength and muscle tone) but there are the mental health benefits of spending time with nature and outdoors that so many people missed out on during lockdown.
Beyond the Gait allows people to spend time in nature with Shetland ponies.
“The Centre provides a real sense of community to everyone who uses it,” says Centre Manager Claire Schimmer. “It’s not just about riding. The people who come here, be it as service users or volunteers, form real friendships that they wouldn’t find anywhere else. For some people it’s the only time in the week they get any social interaction. Lockdown has been particularly difficult for them so we are very pleased to be able to be offering our services again.”
Some of the Centre’s volunteers after taking riders to a competition
The Centre took the opportunity of the Covid Lockdown to accelerate its plans to rebrand and extend its charitable objects to include disadvantage as well as disability. In the future they hope to be able to reach and support even more people.
“The Avon Centre is my lifeline for my physical therapy, mental health therapy and much, much more,” says Centre Ambassador Winnie. “Thank you for everything. I am forever thankful!”
Winnie and Cam
However, the Covid Lockdown also meant that the Centre was not able to generate income for the 18 months of closure, whilst still having the same outgoings. Horse retirements and staff redundancies have reduced the Centre’s capacity to operate and finding the money to keep the doors open every month is becoming increasingly difficult.
A Crowdfunder has been launched to try and help the Centre stay open through the difficult winter period, and continue to thrive into the coming years.
“We have big plans,” said Claire Schimmer. “Extending our objectives means we can reach even more people and we’re already reaching out to other charities and groups to see how we can support each other. But unfortunately the reality is that if we can’t raise the £50,000 through the crowdfunder, the Centre will likely have to close within 3 months.”
If you can help support the Centre with their crowdfunder please click this link for more information: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-avon-centre#start
For press enquiries please contact Info@theavoncentre.org.uk