Help Jenn LEAP towards a better future

by Jennifer Thornton in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom


raised so far



I am attempting to raise enough to pay course fees so I can study Level 4 Diploma in Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL)

by Jennifer Thornton in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom

Hi, I'm Jenn

Thank you for taking the time to visit my Crowdfunder page, I hope you can help me raise the amount I need to pay the course fees required for me to secure a place and pay the fees so I can study for Level 4 Diploma in Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL).

My long-term hope is that one day I don't have to rely on disability benefits. I'd like to be in a position where I can create my own income working in an environment that I feel confident and safe. I would now like to be able to share my passion for ponies and their healing powers to help people find their way through their challenges in a non-judgemental, calm environment.

Please consider helping me by pledging. If you are unable to pledge, please help me spread the word by telling others. You could share on social media, word of mouth, or suggest other funding that may be available leave a comment. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

A bit about me

I recently turned 47, for the past 8 years I have been learning how to accept and adapt to life with a brain injury. 

Before the accident, I was happily working for a small equine rescue charity on Dartmoor as a member of the welfare team. I had recently graduated from the University of Plymouth, where I studied BSc Conservation Biology. As a dyslexic, mature student I struggled through the course, often wondering if I should have stayed in the job, I was so unhappy doing it because I was "obviously" too stupid to study a biology degree. But I stuck with it and succeeded. I hoped to work in the conservation and environment sector, travelling the world and taking part in research projects. I was fit and full of energy, I rode a moped, I had a social life, a dog, and a horse. Life was starting to look good until ...

Traumatic brain injury 

In October 2013, I had an accident in the yard where I kept my horse. I do not remember what happened but have been told that I lost my footing and fell backwards whilst handling a pony. The impact of my head hitting the granite curb caused a fracture to the back of my skull and a life-threatening bleed on my brain's right frontal lobe. I was put into a medically induced coma for two weeks, during which I had emergency surgery (craniotomy) to remove the damaged part of my brain. I have no memory of my early rehabilitation at Derriford hospital where I had to learn how to talk, swallow, eat and drink without assistance and walk again. I had to wear a special helmet when I wasn't on the bed or a chair to protect my brain where a large section of my skull had been removed during the craniotomy. This was the case for 6 months. 1628202074_2014-04-02_19.39.02_(2).jpgI was then moved to a specialist neuro-rehabilitation unit where I had daily physiotherapy, numerous cognitive tests. I was taught how to use basic items in the kitchen and prove I could use appliances safely and make basic meals and drinks for myself. It was exhausting and my emotions were all over the place. During my time in Plym-Neuro, I started a Facebook page called Hard Hats & Horses. I wanted to raise awareness of the importance of wearing a riding helmet at all times when around horses and ponies. Here is the link

Recovery goals?

I was often asked by the occupational and physiotherapists what my main goals were when I was able to go back home. Every time I said, "ride my horse", "be with the ponies", "go back to work". Those weren't the type of goals they were talking about, they meant to make a cup of tea, be able to live independently! All I wanted was to be able to be with my horse and be back at work with the ponies. I thought my life would go back to "normal", that I would carry on where I left it. 

After six months I had a cranioplasty procedure, where the hole in my skull was replaced with a metal plate. (picture is of me the day after the cranioplasty, looking like Frankenstein's bride)1628202159_2014-04-18_08.06.49.jpg

The long road ahead

I returned to work, in hindsight much too early. Many brain injury survivors aren't fully aware of their limitations. I felt ready, but I really struggled; I eventually snapped, the stress got too much and I had a mental breakdown. I ended up resigning. I have received the limited capacity to work benefits since I left my job. The benefits system has been difficult to navigate and has often left me feeling dehumanized, frustrated, and constantly in fear of them being stopped (which has happened, leaving me distressed with no money).  

8 years on

I have been left with many post-brain injury issues which have affected my confidence and ability to work. They include Chronic fatigue, Hyper-sensitivity to everyday noises, severe tinnitus that requires me to wear hearing aids, I'm easily confusion, forgetfulness, social anxiety, panic disorder, bladder problems, seizures, and complex PTSD. I'm prescribed numerous medications to control these conditions. I have ongoing therapy and recovery support from Rethink Mental Illness for my mental health conditions.

Thankfully I have supportive family and friends who have helped as much as they can. I was able to help a friend who ran a small pony rescue (, being around ponies in nature felt safe and has helped me 1628203688_5aug2021.jpegthrough some very dark times. Even though it was a pony that almost ended my life I have never felt in danger when with them. As a child I felt the same, no one could touch me if I was with the ponies. This is where equine facilitated learning comes in. (Picture is of me with my favourite pony, Cherry. My red coat, and satchel with choccy spread sarnies).  

What is Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL)?

"EFL is defined as an educational approach to equine-assisted activities. It refers to a non-therapy service that includes horses and focuses on teaching skills and enhancing the quality of life. EFL programs are developed and organized by trained practitioners, with the primary intent to facilitate personal growth and life skills development through equine interactions. EFL Practitioners may come from a variety of backgrounds. EFL programs focus on the recognized benefits of social interaction, physical exercise, and skills development. The [email protected] Model offers practitioners a framework to focus on teaching life skills, social skills, communication skills, and leadership skills while facilitating personal growth and self-awareness through non-mounted interactions with horses" 

Examples of what Equine Assisted Learning can focus on are:

  • Non-verbal communication
  • Assertiveness
  • Creative thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Confidence

Who can Equine Assisted Learning help?

  • Young offenders
  • Adult offenders
  • Women at risk
  • Vulnerable adolescents
  • Those experiencing a life change and crisis

People with the following can benefit from Equine Assisted Learning sessions:

  • Trauma
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD
  • Eating Disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • ADHA
  • Autism
  • Addictions

Level 4 Diploma in Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) - Dreaming of a better future for myself and others

I want to use my passion for ponies and my experiences of past trauma struggle with my mental health and the challenges I face post brain injury to help others. I found LEAP Equine ran courses and enquired. I was advised I would need to attend one of their introduction workshops before applying for the main course. My heart sank because I knew I wasn't able to pay the workshop fee and travel to Berkshire on my own. There is no government funding for the course either, so I resigned to the fact I would never be able to afford the course, so what was the point in even thinking about it? But then ... 

Thanks to the support of Rethink Mental Illness and funding from Pluss ( I was able to attend a LEAP introduction workshop.

I found the workshop beneficial and was excited to sign up for the Level 4 Diploma that starts September 2021. I have looked into possible student funding, sadly this course has no government funding so I need to raise the money myself. Having not been able to work for the past 8 years I am unable to finance it myself. Pluss are also unable to offer any more as the amount is over their funding limit. 

Course Details 

Online Training: TBC 

In-person Training:TBC 

Fees for the taught elements of the course and three mentoring sessions are as follows: Course Fee: To be confirmed by LEAP, due to change in start date and how the course will be taught 

** The additional amount in my appeal total is potential fees that Crowdfunder will deduct after the end date (please see Crowdfunder's fees)  **

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