Running Deer’s Referrals Pathway Programme is open to young people in Devon who need additional support outside of the classroom. Sophie was one such person…full of anger and teenage angst; referred to us through Referrals Pathway.
She started with us in July 2014, having been permanently excluded from school and in her own words stating ‘I was horrible’.
At the start Sophie clearly didn’t want to be with us. She had never really spent any time in the countryside so being thrust into an alien environment far away from civilisation consisting of mud, trees, cows and pheasants was seen as a punishment.
When we introduced her to Trelawny and the ponies we saw a spark and she agreed to come again.
This was the start of Sophie’s journey.
Jo, Managing Director of Running Deer interviewed Sophie and asked her if she’d like to share her experience, thoughts and time in Butterdon Wood. This is what she said…
Arriving at Butterdon Wood
Jo: What impression did you get on your initial visit to Running Deer at Butterdon Wood?
Sophie: I hated it. I only came because Mum said that if I didn’t I would be grounded for a month.
Jo: Why did you hate it?
Sophie: I didn’t like the woods!
Meeting Trelawny and the ponies
Jo: When you started on your first day what did you think – and what did you do?
Sophie: I think it was Trelawny and Pip – I went to see them in their field – I didn’t like Trelawny very much but I loved Pippin!
Work experience at the Miniature Pony Centre
Jo: We have had some ups and downs over the time you have been with Running Deer. You used to run off but you don’t now. You’ve been excluded a couple of times, one seriously, but we decided to take you back and give you another chance. What have you been doing since then?
Sophie: Work experience at the Miniature Pony Centre. I go twice a week. My favourite pony has gone to France now which made me feel sad. There are about thirty horses and ponies there now… a Lipizanner, a cob, a shire and Friesans. The Friesians are very naughty – especially Indie! She pulls the fence pegs out of the ground!
Jo: What sort of jobs do you do at the centre?
Sophie: Clean up pretty much everything – ducks, rabbits, guinea-pigs. I feed the horses. I don’t like the ferrets – they stink and they bite! They also have chipmunks and a Degu. I poo pick the fields as well. Sometimes I talk to the visitors about the horses.
Sophie: I’ve been lunged in the riding school on one of the horses. All of the ponies go out at night. There were 6 foals born recently. I missed Dream giving birth to her foal by an hour. It was really cool but disgusting too! Three of the miniature pony foals are called Blue, Meredith and Genie. They are really tiny.
Running Deer’s Heavy Horse Experience
Jo: What else do you do with Running Deer – in your mentoring and equine studies sessions?
Sophie: I work with Trelawny and ride him sometime and feed him polos! He’s a 19hh Shire horse. I want to work with the new wild Dartmoor Hill Pony that has just joined Running Deer. His name is Cisco and I want him to be a show pony. He came off the moors and was bought at the pony drift in Chagford. I want to spend time with him to get a connection. I sat in the field and waited for him to come to me. Since then I have been trying to halter train him, but the other ponies are distracting him so I am glad he has moved up to the barn to be with Trelawny now. I can do some proper work with him now.
Jo: what would you be doing if you weren’t at Running Deer?
Jo: Do you think you have become a better person for being with us?
Sophie: Sometimes…. my attitude has improved. I don’t run away any more and I haven’t self harmed for months! I haven’t got into trouble with the police recently either.
Jo: What would you like to do when you leave school?
Sophie: I’d like to do showing or show jumping. I want to work with young stock and stallions as well.
Running Deer’s Referrals Pathway Programme
Sophie is not the same person she was when she arrived at Running Deer.
We have seen her grow from a sullen and troubled 13 year old into a teenager with a promising future. She is participating in weekly work experience, helping to train wild ponies and is just starting to do some work as a mentor with other young people referred to us!
There is still a long way to go but Sophie will get there…we have no doubt…with grit, determination and a team of people to support her on her journey.
This is just one of the examples of the work Running Deer does with young people. We have changed her name to protect her identity.
Whether on Running Deer’s Referrals Pathway Programme, receiving individual Mentoring or as part of our Equine Assisted Learning they all benefit from their time with us in Butterdon Wood.
If you are a teacher or school looking to refer your young person to Running Deer we would love to hear from you.