Most of our animals are at our Ryland site. This is a 30 acre farm and the main business is a small pedigree herd of Simmental cows under the prefix Dreamcatcher. Simmentals have a peaceful nature and are well suited to bovine assisted therapy. Posh Poppy was our first cow ten years ago from the Wishful line of cows and she has given us a number of bull calves that have gone on to breed at other farms. Our oldest cow is sixteen in 2016.
The other animals are reared either for the care farm as therapy animals or for producing our own meat, we have Ryland and polled Dorset sheep and different breeds of chickens and ducks. The goats, rabbits, donkeys and kune kune pigs are at the farm for as long as they live and are here solely for the relationship factor.
Our Whitfield site isn’t intended to be a centre for animal-assisted therapy but due to the high number of requests from those who visit us there we have introduced small animals like rabbits and chickens. We try to buy local, whilst we do grow a certain amount of our own hay or haylage it is not enough for winter so we buy feed or hay from local producers when we can.
Animal-assisted therapy is much as the name suggests – it is the involvment of animals to assist or expedite a therapeutic process with the goal of improving social, emotional, or cognitive well-being. Future Roots session leaders are trained in AAT techniques and use this in conjunction with the Resilience Model to ensure that activities are structured to ensure the best possible progression for individuals. Our mission is to provide stability and direction to those struggling to cope with the transitions in their lives, building the resilience of individuals and families.
An example of animal assisted therapy might be talking to someone about a baby donkey’s who was rejected by his mum. The foal, Smurf, can be quite difficult to manage because he is confused, mum loves him but doesn’t know how to treat him and sometimes shows that she is scared of him by giving him a kick or bite. They get along ok now he is older but at times Smurf needs somebody who understands him to help him with his behaviour. When we talk about this to young people who find it difficult to get along with their families they often feel able to talk about their own situations, which often include abuse or domestic violence, and this increases their understanding of what is happening in their own lives.