Helping Thomas overcome his fear of animals

Please note: all social activities and interactions mentioned in this piece took place prior to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. All staff are ensuring that the people we support are safe during this difficult time whilst helping them to understand and cope with the restrictions set by the Government.

Redcliffe House told us how they supported Thomas to overcome his fear of animals and make friends with a horse called Lucky.

Why horses?

Thomas has feared animals since childhood and didn’t enjoy going to the zoo or being around them. He would get anxious and, for example, hide if a dog ran past him.

In July 2019, Thomas was watching horse racing on TV and started talking about horses and horse racing.

As he talked more about horses, his staff decided to encourage him to do something with his newfound interest. They explained to Thomas that he can go and see horses if he wished and to everyone’s surprise, he was excited by the idea.

Seeing horses for the first time

A plan was made to arrange a visit to the tracks so that Thomas could see horses from a distance.

His staff were concerned there may be a chance that Thomas could hate the visit and still fear animals. To try and combat this, they planned the visit with him so he knew exactly what was going to happen and could prepare himself.

How did the visit go?

The first visit went well, he enjoyed watching them around the track and staff could see his confidence growing. As more visits were planned Thomas’s excitement and fascination with horses grew.

Thomas’s support worker noticed a huge change in him when he stroked a dog for the first time rather than hiding. This was a massive achievement.

Stacey Fritchley, Service Manager at Redcliffe House said: “It was amazing how confident he became, his main focus was on horses so we thought we’d keep with that and looked at doing different activities. As horse-riding is a popular thing to do, we asked Thomas if he would like to do it and he was really excited about it.”

So, staff arranged for Thomas to have a horse-riding session!

Thomas’s first horse-riding lesson

Late last year, Thomas had his first ever horse-riding lesson. This was a huge step and he had a couple of visits to see the horses at Sherwood Forest before the big day.

The lesson was explained to Thomas in advance, which helped build his excitement.

The most important part of the process was picking a horse that was suitable for Thomas. As Thomas is tall the horse had to be the right height and build and he needed time to form a bond. He found his favourite horse and called him Lucky!

At his first lesson with Lucky, he walked round the paddock and absolutely loved it! He formed a great connection and became very excited about future lessons.

So, what was next for Thomas and Lucky?

As winter drew in, Thomas and his support staff felt it was dangerous to keep riding but he’s been visiting Lucky regularly and enjoys spending time with him. He can’t wait for the warmer weather now!

Thomas has made huge strides to overcome his fear of animals and enjoy their company. This is a fantastic achievement for both Thomas and his staff at Redcliffe House.

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