The Avon Centre is a charity which supports children and adults with additional needs through equine and nature based activities. We are based just outside Bristol and have been operating for 40 years.
Sadly we have been unable to operate for much of the past 18 months due to the Covid lockdowns, whilst still having the costs associated with keeping our horses. Several roles had to be made redundant, which has limited our fundraising ability and our ability to expand our reach and grow our income streams. This has led to a depleted cash balance and the centre is still operating at a financial loss each month. Sadly the centre is at risk of having to permanently close in the coming 4-6 months unless significant funds are raised.
At The Avon Centre we believe in the power of horses and nature to improve the quality of life for people in our community. For 40 years our charity has boosted the physical, emotional and mental health of disabled children, young people and adults, along with their families, friends and carers. Recently, the impact of the covid pandemic has made life even more difficult for disabled people and it has worsened life for other people too. Loneliness, anxiety, and depression are felt by more people than ever before and local services for mental health are overburdened as a result.
Every year at The Avon Centre, at least 300 local people ride and care for horses and ponies and they use the green, healing spaces of our land too. All our work is built upon five pillars: Nature, Education, Inclusion, Growth, Horses. Yes, that’s NEIGH! We work with horse and ponies, but for us, people come first. Our staff and volunteers listen and work hard to find what works best for each person, making sure they feel good emotionally as well as physically. With this caring approach at the heart of what we do, our skilled team supports people with differing needs in a range of ways.
We are volunteer led - all of our coaches which run our riding lessons for the disabled are unpaid volunteers.
Simply, non-ridden interactions with ponies and nature. We improve wellbeing by using Mindfulness techniques. People can step away from their everyday lives, decompress, and reinvigorate while being present, real, and authentic. Ponies don’t judge people.
Our charity came to be thanks to the compassion, vision, and tenacity of Stella Saywell, one of the first physiotherapists to be involved in therapeutic riding. Stella was the Head of Physiotherapy at Winford Orthopaedic Hospital and persuaded her consultant to use riding to help in the rehabilitation of some patients that had acquired physical disabilities as a result of contracting Polio. That first step in 1969 was taken in response to the Polio epidemic. Now, our charity finds itself having to respond to the mental and physical challenges presented by a terrible new pandemic – covid 19.
We have plans for broadening our reach in the community and extending our non ridden equine activities. This will enable to increase the number of people we support and vitally grow our income helping us to become financially sustainable. We want to double the number of people we support to 600 each year.
However we can only achieve this if we are able to keep the charity alive during this unprecedented time.
We work with people with a range of additional needs. They range in age from 2 to 103.
Our work enables the people we support to spend time outdoors, in nature and with animals. This has a significant positive impact on both physical and mental health. Never has this been more important than over the past 18 months with people suffering wide ranging difficult circumstances in light of Covid.
Riding can help disabled people in many ways: simply sitting up straight on a horse provides physiotherapy and core strengthening exercise without the need to coordinate or understand complex movements. Improved core strength means better balance, improved mobility in everyday life.
As a direct impact of Covid and pro-longed lockdowns, it has become more apparent than ever that we need to broaden our reach in the community and offer equine assisted activities and support to a wider population, many of whom have greatly suffered in the last 18 months of the pandemic.
Please support our campaign to help prevent us from closing and to be able to continue delivering our life changing work.