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Calls for presidency’s social prescribing funding to inclue equestrianism

  • Calls have been made for equestrian activities to be included in “social prescribing”, as new funding is announced for walking and cycling.

    The Government’s Department for Transport (DfT) announced last month that 11 local authorities in England will benefit from £12.7m funding, which will be used for pilot projects including cycle training, bike loans and walking groups. The pilot is part of the Government’s aim to “evaluate the impact of cycling and walking on an individual’s health, such as reduced GP appointments and reliance on mediation due to more physical activity”.

    Transport, active travel and health officials will work together towards a “whole systems approach to health improvement and tackling health disparities”.

    Equestrian activities are not included in the pilot projects, but a spokesman for the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) told H&H the charity “welcomes” the funding and is “encouraged” to see social prescribing being invested in. As part of the RDA’s new strategy (news, 31 March) the charity announced plans to recognise the role the RDA could play in social prescribing.

    “The concept is definitely gathering pace in England, with recent pilot schemes to connect people with the natural environment, and this latest investment in prescribing walking and cycling to benefit mental health and wellbeing,” said the spokesman.

    “In terms of our participants, we would urge the government to look at the benefits of RDA activities and consider including riding in any expansion of this pilot project. In the immediate term, the biggest opportunity we have identified would involve GPs effectively ‘prescribing’ volunteering with RDA, to help tackle elements of mental and physical wellbeing that might otherwise involve the use of medication. Our report, Horses, Health and Happiness demonstrated that volunteering with RDA delivers a range of benefits: overcoming isolation, boosting mental health, improving physical health and developing knowledge and skills.”

    The British Horse Society runs the Changing Lives through Horses scheme, aimed at helping young people expand skills and knowledge in an “alternative education setting”.

    “Working with horses can hold a real benefit and can be a great way to connect people with their community. Their non-judgemental nature makes them the perfect companion, not to mention the opportunity they provide to help boost a person’s mental and physical wellbeing,” said the scheme’s head Alison Blackmore.

    “Essentially, the main goal is to support people taking part in purposeful activities and providing them with a natural sense of structure. Social prescribing strives to inspire individuals to grow and reconnect with society, and what’s incredible is that this can all be done through the magic of horses.”

    A DfT spokesman told H&H that although the social prescribing trials only apply to walking and cycling, the department “continues to support horse riding”.

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