Sue Gessey is the co-founder of the Animal Healing Trust, a non-profit charity in the West Midlands that provides a loving home for 28 horses, looking after not just their physical, but emotional and spiritual well-being.
1) How did the Animal Healing Trust start?
It started by accident! I had 2 horses Billy and Daisy that I had rescued from a horse sanctuary that I had volunteered at for 4 years and closed down. I then started doing reiki on other people’s horses and nutrition and became quite well known for it, so much so that a lady in Bewdley rang me about her horse to say the vet wanted to put her to sleep as she couldn’t stand up properly and would I help. I thought she meant go and see her which I said yes to but she meant would I take her horse off her! I said yes to this too and then decided perhaps I needed to start a charity! I did and I also got Inka (the horse I had taken on) well with good nutrition, adjusting her body chemistry and giving her daily reiki – I still have her now 7 years later!
2) Where do the horses you take in tend to come from?
All sorts of backgrounds from race yards to beloved pets to abandoned at the road side.
3) You’ve mentioned that a lot of the horses you used to take in were abused or neglected while now a lot of people just don’t want to care for their horses any more. How do you think this could be prevented? Do you think there should be stricter rules for owning horses from the start?
That’s a tough question!
I feel it would be better if firstly the amount of breeding of horses was restricted or monitored in some way. There’s far too many horses being bred and quite harshly with babies being taken from their mommies cruelly too. Also I think we would see improvements if people were educated more on the emotional needs of horses.
Horses seem, in my experience, to be treated more like cars than animals. They get passed on so quickly if they don’t perform how the humans want, I don’t come across this with dogs or any other pets. Horses form strong bonds with other horses and their humans (if they are kind) so to take a horse or pony on really would be for life not just for one competition or until the child or adult wants a bigger or faster “model”
4) How many horses do you currently care for and what’s your total capacity?
We are at our capacity now of 28 purely because we have run out of land and need more income.
5) Is the aim to re-home some, or all of the horses eventually? Or do they stay with you permanently?
If we were to rehome any in the future it would have to be with one of their friends and to humans that do natural horsemanship. Our guys and girls have been through such a lot and they take sanctuary from their horse friends and that they are never spoken to harshly or shouted at or sworn at here and we never use any violence what so ever. So they experience safety and security here as well as their emotional needs being met and that would have to continue,
6) What kind of natural horsemanship methods do you use at the Trust?
We use just that – natural horsemanship. No method with a title but we become a horse when we are with them and teach them from that view point, so energy and body language up if we want them to listen and follow and then energy down and body language relaxed when we want them to relax and process what we have asked them to do. It’s all “pressure and release” which is what they do with each other. So ears back means I’m coming through get out my way! Once the other horses do that the lead mare then puts her ears into normal position. We can learn so much from them there’s never any reason to shout or hit them that shows an ignorance and lack of understanding by the humans. If we understand the horse, we speak their language which is kinder, more respectful and works!!
7) How do you use natural remedies on the horses? What kind of effect do they have?
We use bach flower remedies and herbs and also nutritional supplements in all of their feeds.
Bach flowers help with their emotions, herbs and supplements help to combat infections, boost immune systems and rebalance their body chemistry.
We also offer hands on Healing such as reiki healing which helps them to release their past, clear old emotions and rebalance them, also massage and Bowen which helps their muscles to release physical aches and pains, magnet therapy and physio too.
8) Are the horses ridden at all or do they just roam in their herds?
There are only 2 of ours that can be ridden none of the others can due to injury or issues or abuse, they are happy to roam …and run and play !
9) Tell me a bit more about the different herds. Billy and Daisy were your first rescues – how did they develop from there?
We have 4 herds and each one developed naturally as the different personalities arrived. We always know which ones we can place in Each herd as we assess their temperament before they arrive …mind you sometimes they decide to override our choices!!
Westie for example has his own herd now and we were treating him for arthritis when he first came to us so we popped him with the older ladies as we knew Billy and Daisy’s herd would be too energetic for him.
The 4 French horses then arrived and we kept them separate in a paddock next door to Westie. He took a shine to French mare Illyanne and jumped the fence to be with her!! This happened 3 times so we knew it was love (and that his treatment for arthritis was working), so we allowed him to start his own herd with the frenchies.
We now have Westie’s herd, Billy and Daisy’s herd, and Harvey’s herd with the 3 elderly horses and the 4 little ponies. Harvey is an ex race horse who suffered horrific abuse physically and mentally and has to be kept quiet so lives with the oldies. The 4 little ponies started with Muffin who was ill and never lived with any horses in his 11 years of life. Once we had helped him get well we knew he wanted horsey company and as it happened a little tiny dwarf Shetland called Sunny needed a home last Christmas so Muffin had a friend for Christmas!! We’ve never seen a pony so happy to meet another and hug it was lovely !! Since then the boys have had 2 girl ponies arrive a few months ago, ex breeding ponies and the 4 of them make a great little family unit.
10) What is your vision for the future of the sanctuary?
To educate folk on horses in a more holistic way, so that they have more than just their physical needs cared for, but their emotional needs too. Also to promote their beauty and wisdom and kindness by allowing humans to interact with them more on a therapy basis such as equine therapy and healing .
11) What’s the best way for people to help the trust?
To fund raise for us, to donate money or to sponsor a horse monthly would be good as we wish to increase our monthly income so that the horses are secure financially. You can purchase particularly items for specific horses via our online shop aswell.