A project which aims to use horses to solve “entrenched problems” in Swansea has been announced. Chaps is a £795,000 three year project to engage with urban horse owners and residents and set up a community-led equine facility in one of the most deprived parts of Swansea. The project is being delivered by a local charity, Cyrenians Cymru, who for 40 years have developed schemes to help tackle poverty and deprivation in southwest Wales.
The funding comes from the Big Lottery’s £2.2m ‘Big Innovation’ programme. Chaps will also work with a variety of other statutory and voluntary agencies to discourage the increasing trend in urban horse ownership, horse abandonment and provide a way for people on rehabilitation programmes for heroin addiction to engage in distraction activities with horses. Studies have shown that being around horses’ changes brainwave patterns and addicts become more “centre focussed”.
This may help reduce the risk of drop out from rehabilitation programmes. The project will also aim to act as a means of engagement for people who may be missing out on accessing other vital services such as housing support, drug support and employment advice within the community. Using animals as therapy is not new: the Greeks documented the horse's therapeutic value in 600BC and French physician Cassaign concluded in 1875 that equine therapy helped certain neurological disorders. But the project is new in Wales.
Horse impoundments in the Swansea area went up from 71 to 129 between 2010 and 2011. Heroin addiction also increased 180% in the last three years. Both problems have placed an increasing financial strain on the local authority. The project aims to set up a stabling block, provide training in horse care, woodland management and health and safety as well as developing micro businesses around bee keeping and worm farming with by-products. People on rehabilitation programmes will help out at the stables as part of their recovery process.