A helping hand from Hannah and her horses for health and wellbeing

IT'S been an interesting journey, but the amazing Banbridge girl Hannah Morgan has found her vocation in life.
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The former Academy student is a therapeutic riding coach at Festina Lente in Bray, County Wicklow - and her work is receiving national recognition.

Hannah has told Chronicle Woman that horse therapy is "all about empowering people."

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She works with age groups from two years right up to 76, some on the autism spectrum, some with mental health concerns.

Banbridge girl ​Hannah is a therapeutic riding coach in Wicklow.Banbridge girl ​Hannah is a therapeutic riding coach in Wicklow.
Banbridge girl ​Hannah is a therapeutic riding coach in Wicklow.

Hannah’s love of animals goes back to childhood as she started riding aged eight and also helped out at stables.

But an equine career? That has taken time to come to fruition.

After the Academy, she went to university, studied Spanish and French - then went on to do law.

However, there was something missing.

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Enjoying the great outdoors, in the Mournes.Enjoying the great outdoors, in the Mournes.
Enjoying the great outdoors, in the Mournes.

Hannah says: "I quickly found out it wasn’t for me. I was living in the city and wasn’t getting the benefit of being outside with the horses and I noticed a decline in my wellbeing."

She volunteered with a riding for the disabled organisation, seeing how it benefited her being around horses - and how much it benefited children.

Hannah then went to Festina Lente and studied the therapeutic riding course, as well as equine-assisted learning and disability awareness.

After the course, she was offered a job at the centre and hasn't looked back.

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Therapeutic riding is working with the movement of the horse to provide therapeutic benefit.

The movement of a horse mimics the human pelvis, so a person who uses a wheelchair is receiving movement they may not get naturally.

Hannah adds: “Horses have a naturally lower heartbeat than humans, so when we are around horses our heartbeat can actually lower.

"Horses are hyper-vigilant. They are continuously reading our behaviour – how we approach them, our subtle movements. Obviously the horses are non-speaking, and some of our clients are non-verbal, and it’s almost like there is a common ground there.

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"A lot of kids are stuck sitting down at school all day and it doesn’t work for them. This is different - and it does work."

Children develop really strong relationships with the horses, whose wellbeing is a top priority at Festina Lente.

Family and friends are, of course, super-proud of Hannah's achievements.

She may be miles away, but her thoughts are never far from home, as you'll see in her Q and A, below...

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