People affected by cancer in Lincoln can now get a pioneering new therapy – using horses.
Breast cancer survivor Sarah Stephens, 32, has set up the therapy centre in Nettleham to help cancer patients deal with the emotional side of going through chemotherapy.
Sarah used her own horses as therapy while going through cancer treatment, and decided to get funding from Macmillan to set up the Spirit and Soul Equine Therapy Service.
Patients take part in structured therapeutic activities with the horses and spend time learning horsemanship skills and doing reflection exercises involving the horses, over the course of four sessions.
Sarah said: “I remember one morning I just went and sat in the barn for a whole morning. One of the horses came over and put his head on my lap.
“Being with the horses helped me to process everything. They have such a calming and constant influence. They didn’t judge me, they didn’t change the way they interacted with me because I’d had my boobs chopped off and lost all my hair. And I thought other people could benefit from this too.”
Sarah was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2016 at the age of 27. She had a double mastectomy and all of her ovaries removed.
She said: “Horses are prey animals by nature so they pick up on our emotions and body language easily and reflect those. So being around horses helps people to regulate their emotions and understand more about how they’re feeling.
“A lot of people affected by cancer put on the ‘I’m fine’ mask when internally they’re in turmoil. Horses don’t see the exterior, they see the interior. It’s a good place to start.”
And Mandy Edwards, Macmillan partnership manager for Lincolnshire, said the county hasn’t seen anything like this before.
She said: “This service is very exciting because we’ve not seen anything like it before in Lincolnshire.
“Being diagnosed with cancer can be an emotional rollercoaster and we will do whatever it takes to support people through this difficult period. This unique service gives those who are having treatment the time and space to address their emotional wellbeing in a supportive environment so they can live life as fully as they can with and beyond cancer.”