On Monday 22nd December Cosgrove Care is taking part in an all-inclusive equestrian show – the first of its kind in Scotland!

“The Winter Equestrian Show” is being held at The Morris Equestrian Centre in Fenwick between 10am and 6pm.

There will be lots going on for all the family at this free event.

Between 10am and noon, the ponies from Cosgrove’s pioneering equine facilitated learning project will be taking part in some on ground games including butterfly leading, the egg and spoon race, the sack race, the bending race and lots, lots more.  They will also be involved in some team building exercises.  Don’t worry though if you can’t be there by noon, as the ponies will be there for the rest of the day for you to pop by to say hi.

At noon, there will be a demonstration from Canine Partners’ dogs and puppies.  This wonderful organisation assists people with disabilities to enjoy a greater independence and a better quality of life by training partner dogs to help with a range of practical tasks such as:

  • Opening and closing doors and cupboards
  • Retrieving a variety of items
  • Helping people to get undressed
  • Pressing buttons and switches
  • Raising the alarm in an emergency
  • Unloading washing machines and tumble driers

Throughout the day there will also be riding games from West Loudoun Equestrian Centre and demonstrations from Morris Equestrian Centre’s dressage horses.

For those in need of some retail therapy, there will be stalls selling cosmetics, gift items and horsey bits and bobs.

If all this horsing around sounds like hungry work, you could always stay on for some lunch or dinner in the delicious restaurant.

Cosgrove’s Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) project – the first of its kind in Scotland is based at Dallars Riding School in Kilmarnock.  The project has been designed to assist a wide range of disabled children and young people.  Funding received by The Brigadier Charitable Trust, The Brownlie Charitable Trust and The Lottery’s Young Start Big Fund, means that Cosgrove is able to provide this service for free.  Cosgrove Care’s EFL practitioner, Jane Forrest has a very clear understanding about what helps and hinders someone’s personal development.  There are many things that make a difference and by far the most important are communication, relationships and self esteem.

A large percentage of children and young people visiting Cosgrove’s EFL project experience autism and behavioural difficulties and often respond very well to the informal and inclusive environment provided at stables.

The EFL sessions aim to improve the lives of disabled children through a fusion of fun, education and therapy.

The project is also popular with schools as their pupils have been volunteering and obtaining work experience which helps with their Duke of Edinburgh and Saltire Awards.

Jane Forrest, Cosgrove’s EFL Facilitator said “As a trained facilitator I encourage children to be expressive, confident, passionate and most of all happy.”

What is EFL

EFL is an area of therapeutic horsemanship which can offer very positive benefits to individuals and groups of people.  An EFL session usually involves ground work with the horse, learning communication skills and building a partnership which can improve a person’s self-esteem, confidence and teach valuable self-awareness skills.

Horses have very specific methods of communication, being largely non-verbal and relying heavily on perception of emotions, mood and body language.  Their natural instincts as prey animals lead them to develop a herd hierarchy when living in the wild or in domesticated groups.  A horse will usually feel safety in numbers and look for a leader to follow, especially in challenging situations.  Through the understanding of equine communication and herd behaviour, we are able to develop a programme of practical learning activities where we can teach an individual how to speak to the horse in their own language and build a rewarding partnership and accomplish great achievements.

Simply put, through the careful design and implementation of activities, learning is facilitated by the horse – often without the participants realising it!

The simple process of instruction and response between the EFL practitioner, the participant and the horse, forms the platform for learning: this then creates an on-going circle of communication, instruction and response where new skills and self-awareness are built.

EFL sessions can involve many activities including rope work, grooming, lunging, free schooling, round pen work, leading over obstacles and problem solving which are just some of the very ‘hands on’ practical elements of the sessions.  Most sessions take place on the ground, as riding is not essential to the process.  While riding can have very positive effects, it is not the focus of this work.

Some Benefits of EFL

The care and welfare of the herd is a big feature of this project and topics that link to our everyday lives which may be a challenge for some young people include safety awareness, nutrition, exercise, relaxation, cleanliness, hygiene, health and wellbeing.

The children and young people learn a huge amount about their personal development, communication, respect, trust and relationships through the ways of the horse.  The project encourages children who often have low self-esteem and self-confidence to achieve results and enjoy their time being in the presence and working with such a powerful animal.

As part of the reflective learning process the team encourages children to keep their own personal journals of their experiences which include photos, pictures and diary pages.

Cosgrove’s Ponies

Cosgrove’s little family of ponies has grown since the project started.  The founding ponies were, Shetland Ponies, Buster and Broxi, who are very popular with the children.

Cosgrove Care is a charity that specialises in providing personalised support and care services for children and adults who have learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorders, and mental health problems living in and around Glasgow and East Renfrewshire.

For further information on the work done by Cosgrove Care or to enquire about their EFL project, call 0141 620 2500 or visit

Author: News Editor

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