WHEN Lyn Thomas from Brynamman lost his sight two years ago he was by his own admission plunged into a state of depression. It took an unlikely companion to lift Lyn out of the doldrums and that happened to be a 30-year-old Shetland pony by the name of Rooney. The Shetland is one of the rescued horses used for therapeutic treatment at the ‘Many Tears Equestrian’ a rescue centre in Cefneithin, Carmarthenshire.
The centre also hosts a program of education where anybody can visit to learn about the world of horses or to simply enjoy spending some peaceful time with them.
The tailored programs are free of charge, though students and visitors often make a small donation to help support the rescue work.
Katy Kear, Equestrian Manager, explained who uses the centre and why:
“We call it equine therapy, but it can be whatever you want to call it. It could be lessons in learning how to look after a horse, it could be someone coming here with depression or any mental health problem who needs to be alone with a horse, to hug a horse, or just be around them. We also have students from Coleg Elidyr, a school for teenagers with special needs.”
Katy is passionate about her job, and her love for horses is matched by her big heart for the humans who come to visit. She enjoys watching her students’ confidence grow and works hard to ensure that they get the best experience with the equine residents while developing skills and attitudes that help them in their everyday lives.
I witnessed her passion first hand when I saw her with the courageous and comical Lyn Thomas, who often visits the centre to spend time with the ponies.
Though he was light-hearted and upbeat during our meeting, Lyn revealed with sadness the depression he felt when his world was plunged into darkness.
Describing how his visits have given him a new lease of life in the six weeks he’s been attending, Lyn said:
“Before I came here I was down, depressed, I was really low. I didn’t think I could scrape myself up from the floor.
“Coming here changed my heart in the matter of an hour. It seemed like someone had opened this door, and it was beautiful.
“It felt like I could see the sun again – a door had opened up and the sun was shining.”
Speaking of his new best friend, Lyn joked: “I don’t want to brag but I have got a bond with Rooney. He’s wonderful and when I leave he whinnies, because he misses me.”
Despite his blindness, Lyn gets a lot done for Rooney, and Edith, a 2-year-old Shetland. He said:
“I wash them with shampoo and conditioner. They get more attention than I do. I clean the hooves out with this tool – it’s sharp and pointy.”
Lyn is also growing more confident and independent around the ponies, as Katy explained:
“Lyn’s blown me away with how quickly he’s picked everything up.
“To start with I was helping too much, but within two weeks I was giving him the head collar and he was putting it on himself.
“He picks out the horses’ feet by himself, doing it all by feel, running his hand over the inside of the horses’ feet to make sure they’re clean.
“I think he does a better job through feel than students that are actually looking, which is amazing.”
In an open letter to Many Tears Equestrian, explaining how the centre had helped improve his life, Lyn wrote:
“I lost my vision in 2016 where a procedure to correct my sight was unsuccessful. I lost complete sight and cannot see anything.”
About his equine therapy, he wrote:
“It has been a wonderful experience, it has opened my heart up again to love animals. Just because I cannot see the world, I can still feel and love and give the unwanted animals the love and protection they deserve. This has been a huge positive resource to myself and others who attend – I am now calmer and more open to converse with others.”
He added in his letter:
“The Staff, especially Katy, have helped me develop skills and a relationship with ponies, which I have never had before. My confidence has grown, and I don’t have so many low moods.”
Katy said of Lyn’s bravery in speaking out about his mental health:
“Because Lyn has been quite open speaking about depression I’ve had some people contact me saying it’s really lifted them to hear his testimony. For Lyn to speak out about it was a big deal.”
Lyn is planning a sponsored walk with his beloved pony Rooney and blind rescue dog Archie, to raise funds for Many Tears Equestrian.
On September 9th Lyn will put all his trust in his faithful pal for their adventure. Rooney will lead the way for Lyn and Archie around the 5-mile route, looking out for them and keeping them on the path.
“My faith and my trust is in Rooney” said Lyn. “Rooney is not going to walk into a bush. I’ve got my full trust in him. He knows I’m blind.”
If you would like to sponsor Lyn and help Many Tears Equestrian continue the wonderful work they do, visit their Go Fund Me page here:
You can find out more about Many Tears Equestrian on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ManyTearsAnimalRescueEquestrianCentre/
Keep an eye out for a short video with Lyn, Katy and Rooney, coming soon.