Mental Health Awareness Week: Horsing around!
12 May 2021

Mental health has never been more important and over the past year, Vistry Group has taken huge strides in its commitment to the cause. With over 100 trained Mental Health First Aiders, a dedicated Mental Health Committee and Mind as its company charity, Vistry is continually progressing and raising awareness of mental health. The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 10th ?" 16th May, is nature. Across the country, people will be celebrating the mental health benefits of being around nature in their local community in a range of digital and creative ways. Vistry will be recognising the theme by sharing a series of stories from staff on how they have connected with nature. Continuing through Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re sharing a story from Michelle Everton who is a PR Marketing and Communications Manager for Vistry Partnership London. Michelle shares a pony with a friend, and finds spending time at the stables and riding a great way to relax. “My first experience of horses was when I was six years old. Our home then had a lot of land and my dad bought a Shetland pony, Goldie. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have him for long because my dad sadly passed away just a few years later. We ended up moving to a new house without land and couldn’t really commit to having a pony any longer. “I still liked horses and was surrounded by friends who would go riding, who I would often join, borrowing one of theirs for the day, but as I moved into my teenage years, I gradually lost interest. “Then, when I was around 25, my friend and I decided to start having lessons. I could already ride, but this was a good refresher and gave us the opportunity to go out on hacks across the local Essex countryside. My friend ended up buying her own horse and I’d help her out with him a bit. “Around six years ago, some friends of mine asked if I would be able to help out with their daughter Rebecca’s pony, as she was heading off to university for four years. I said yes, and that’s when I got to know Foxy, he is a 18t year old, 14 hands 2, Connemara Gelding. “Rebecca has now finished university and moved back to Essex, but I’ve carried on looking after Foxy at weekends and when I can around work, during the week, and I love it! We’ve got a good arrangement which means I haven’t had to take on the full financial and time commitment of owning a horse, but I still get to enjoy riding and caring for one! “My 11-year-old son Samuel has since shown a real interest in riding too, which is great and we part-loan a pony for him at our current yard for him to look after and ride three days a week. Whether this enthusiasm will last as he gets older, I don’t know! But he had already announced that his plan is to go to the local agricultural college to do something within this field. “I’m really treasuring this time as it’s a nice thing to do together, just Samuel and I, and something we’ve really bonded over. I think it’s a great experience for him. It’s taught him about caring and looking after animals and having commitments. “There’s also the social side to it all. Foxy is stabled at a local a yard situated upon a farm, with around 28 other horses and we often go out together for hacks or box them up for the day to go out to local shows or cross country. “As the lockdown restrictions eased last year we organised a show at our yard, which was fantastic. We had a professional judge attend, we built a temporary showing ring for the day, had a tack and turnout (which Samuel won) and had lots of games for the kids ?" there was all sorts! We also had a barbeque, and as it proved such a success, I think we will do this each year. “During lockdown, we were very lucky. Where lots of people couldn’t really get out much, we were able to go to the farm-yard to sort out the horses at any given opportunity, around my work day and the children’s home schooling. There are around 100 acres, of which around 50 acres (mainly during the winter months when the farmers aren’t growing much), we’re able to ride on. “The lovely thing about it being on a working farm is we also get to see all the other animals ?" there are currently loads of little lambs running around which is lovely. It’s proper escapism and a great place to appreciate nature and the outdoors. “One of the things I really enjoy about looking after horses is the care aspect. Foxy always knows when I’ve arrived at the yard ?" he can hear my voice and even knows my footsteps ?" and he’ll start to get excited and call out! The interaction you get is amazing. “When I head to the yard to see Foxy, I forget all the stresses of work and all the chores at home. I find it really therapeutic, and, I think as a working mum it’s important to have something which allows you to get away from it all and have something for yourself. “Now that the weather is improving and therefore the fields are drying out, I am able to look forward to galloping across a field on Foxy each week?" there’s no feeling quite like it.”

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