Local woman giving back to community through horse therapy
Four years ago, Newbury Weekly News readers and local companies came together in aid of a North Hampshire woman to fund a motorised wheelchair to enable her to regain her independence.
Now, Charlotte Walton – who suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – is keen to give back to the community that “gave me my life back”, and has launched a horse therapy non-profit organisation to help people of all ages with mental health issues or disabilities.
Ms Walton, 28, and her mother, Debbie Willcockson, 51, have 10 rescue ponies on land on the Berkshire/Hampshire border, starting off with a mini Shetland called Beau and a Welsh section A mare called Doris, who was earmarked for slaughter after a riding school shut down.
It spiralled from there, with the duo now owning five gypsy colts, four mini Shetlands, plus Doris.
Ms Walton said the idea for Forever Loved Horse Therapy started when one of her friend’s children, who is autistic, visited the ponies, and Ms Walton observed the “incredible” change in him – going from a loud and bolshie boy to being calm.
She said: “It was at that point I realised I could do something more – I could help so many people.
“Horses are amazing animals – they’ve given me so much and they’re so in tune with emotion, they can understand you better than a person can.
“You don’t have to talk, you just have to touch.”
Ms Walton, who now lives in Bishops Green, also gave the example of her grandfather, Stuart Milne, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
She continued: “He doesn’t always remember us, he gets muddled quite easily – but he always knows the ponies are there.
“He’s a different person when he comes.
“He’s happy, he takes them on long walks – he loves helping out.
“That’s another way of helping someone. It’s not just the young we’re trying to reach, it’s the elderly as well.”
Among Ms Walton’s ponies is gypsy colt Eric, who when he arrived two-and-a-half years ago aged six months was skin and bone, and so weak he couldn’t hold his own bodyweight.
He was given a five per cent chance by vets of surviving the night, but now thrives.
Ms Walton plans to continue with the ponies’ rehab, but is also now looking to build the therapy side of things.
She continued: “There’s nothing out there like it and there’s a cry for it.
“Some people have said: ‘Why haven’t I heard of you?’ Growing Forever Loved Horse Therapy is the next stage of it, to get where we want to be.”
She is holding a fundraising/open day at Ecchinswell Village Hall on Saturday, from noon to 4pm.
Eric and a few of the other rescues will be making an appearance, and there will be a raffle and tombola to raise money for the organisation, which relies on donations.
Ms Walton is also looking for land close to Newbury in order to be able to take on more ponies, as the current field only allows 10.
For more information, visit https://foreverlovedhorsetherapy.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org