Gandhi once said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
As easy as this may sound, how many of us are guilty of hiding behind the safety of our computer screens and cashing our corporate pay cheques, whilst doing little else than pontificating about the woes of the world.
Would you have the courage to completely turn your back on a successful career and comfortable lifestyle, to move to the country and dedicate your life to putting more good into this world?
Well, back in 2010 I had the great honour of meeting one courageous woman, who did just that.
I met Jackie Tye at an equine therapy workshop right at the start of my photographic journey. As we chatted, her story unravelled and I became more and more intrigued by her passion and dedication to her radical new way of life.
It all began through a series of serendipitous events, that led to Jackie rescuing an ex-race horse called Pilgrim. Pilgrim was in dire need of a heroine as his future, like many retired or injured race horses, was not looking rosy.
The synergy between Jackie and this horse was tangible. Destiny was calling.
It was at about this time that Jackie heard a radio programme about an abused child whose trauma had resulted in her becoming mute. Only through the gentle interaction with a pony, was the child able to feel safe enough to ever talk again.
The seed was planted. There was work for Pilgrim and Jackie to do.
This is Jackie talking about the inspiration behind her move to Devon.
Turning her back on a successful career as a London artist, Jackie and Pilgrim up-sticks and moved from the ‘Big Smoke’ to a small corner of the Devon countryside, just outside the village of Silverton, nr Tiverton. Here, she set up a rescue and rehabilitation centre for horses, and named it the New Life Horse Care Sanctuary. It was at about this time that I drove over to Silverton to see Jackie in action with Pilgrim. The connection was mesmerising.
A few years on and the Sanctuary has now become a fully registered charity, and has expanded it’s offerings to include equine therapy for children with special needs and disabilities.
Most of the horses that Jackie rescues are still those judged unsuitable for rehoming and who therefore, face a rather bleak future. Many are broken hearted and have been treated so badly or suffered such severe neglect that they’ve developed extreme behavioural or physical problems.
Over the last ten years, Jackie has cared for over 200 horses and ponies, providing respite for the sick, injured and traumatised, which have often included orphan foals. Her objective is always to heal and then rehome these horses wherever possible. She uses only gentle methods of rehabilitation, based on the teachings of Ken Faulkner’s Australian Natural Horsemanship
Today, there are three charity ponies on site, all with chronic medical and behavioural issues that need regular vet treatments or sessions with specialist behaviourists. There is also a horse with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and two orphaned foster foals from Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Ponies Charity. The Dartmoor Ponies have been coming to the Sanctuary for safe-guarding and training for over two years now. The two that Jackie’s looking after at the moment, have both suffered extreme trauma, one having been found starving on the moor, and the other bereft after witnessing the death of his mother in a road traffic accident.
Jackie’s work does not stop at the rescue and rehabilitation of these beautiful creatures. Whilst they’re healing, these gentle beings are also helping to heal children and young adults who come to the Sanctuary for equine therapy.
Broken hearted horses helping broken hearted children, and broken hearted children helping broken hearted horses. What a truly beautiful synergy ….
All the horses, including the foals, work alongside all the young people, many of whom come to the centre with severe special needs. Most of these children can’t even get placements anywhere else due to the severity of their conditions and their need for 1:1 help and support. Jackie is resolute in wanting to ensure that each child has the optimum care and attention that they so very much deserve, so there are never more than three learners onsite at any one time.
As Jackie is keen to point out though, her work is primarily involved in assisting horses who have suffered extreme stress and adversity, so she’s always careful to ensure that she’s not adding more pressure to them through the interaction with the children.
Here Jackie talks with passion about New Life Horse Care and how she feels that it empowers the children.
In this next video, Melissa one of the young learners who has benefited from NLHC, explains how the Sanctuary helped her to gain confidence and self esteem. Melissa now has a very successful career, and her long list of achievements increases every day. As you will see in the video, she puts this success down to the confidence she gained through working with Jackie at NLHC. As Melissa says, ‘It gave me something that the mainstream education system just couldn’t – confidence.”
And it’s not just the learners and the horses that are benefiting from Jackie’s work at NLHC. Families and carers of the children also gain through the experience. Margaret Burden explains how her whole family has been transformed since one of her autistic sons, Mikey, started attending the Sanctuary. Margaret has three special needs sons and a husband who is disabled – life has not always been easy. Jackie has now fully trained Margaret to help her learners with reading, writing, speaking as well as horse handling and pasture management. This has given Margaret a new lease of life and sense of purpose. Margaret is so passionate about NLHC that she now volunteers her time four mornings a week and is keen to point out that since working with the horses, she has felt healthier in both body and mind – she’s even lost weight and gone down a few dress sizes.
In this last video, Jackie explains her hopes for the future. This includes improving access ways for wheelchair users like her young learner, Connie. She also envisions going back to her artistic roots and integrating a small arts therapy studio into her service offerings. This would not only help children interested in art but also provide a relaxing and supportive environment for families and carers to sit and chat whilst the children are with the horses.
New Life Horse Care truly does sound like it has a brilliant future ahead of it. Jackie continues to be committed to that first vision that her beautiful Pilgrim introduced her to. Sadly, Pilgrim passed away a few years ago but his legacy lives on. Jackie is still strongly committed to promoting good horsemanship and kind care to vulnerable horses, and all the young people who attend the Sanctuary are part of this vision.
Jackie now has a new horse by her side, the charismatic Obe. Obe is an ex- dressage horse with a traumatic past. He may be old in years, but he stands proud alongside Jackie, helping all the youngsters that come his way.
For more information about Jackie and the empowering work she is doing at NLHC, please go to her website at www.newlifehorsecare.webs.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.