Who we are
Interacting with horses can quite literally change lives! Conquest Centre, based at Norton Fitzwarren, provides horse-based activities for people with disabilities and additional needs and through this benefits their health and well-being. We deliver these activities in an inclusive environment which welcomes our whole community. Our work focuses on ability rather than disability and aims to allow each individual to achieve their personal goals.
Conquest began its journey in 1965. Today we provide around 220 activity sessions a week for adults and children with disabilities and additional needs, as well as catering for families/carers, volunteers and public riders. As well as the clients who come to us direct, our services are used by local clubs and associations, disability support groups, care homes, schools, and Community Payback. Across all our work our total annual footfall is just over 34,000.
WHAT WE DO
Conquest Centre is a fully equipped equine centre with: a herd of horses trained for our specialist work; an indoor and outdoor arena with floodlighting, show jumps and a variety of learning tools; a woodland riding trail; specialised equipment such as a hoist and wheelchair accessible mounting block; disabled driving carriages; a wheelchair accessible toilet/wetroom.
We offer a wide range of horse-based activities for people with physical and learning disabilities and other additional needs aged from toddlers to 83 years!:
Riding Lessons – group and private lessons from qualified instructors with expertise in working with people with disabilities, behavioural difficulties and emotional issues. Just sitting on a walking horse moves every muscle in the body, so lessons enable riders to, for example, improve balance, develop core strength, and reduce spasticity in over tight muscles. Riding lessons also offer language and processing development as clients listen to and act on directions from instructors, educational learning as they practice counting or colour recognition (eg riders may be asked to turn toward a green object), improvements in emotional and social skills as riders form relationships of trust with their horse, instructor and volunteers, and improved self-belief as they perfect new skills. Our Woodland Trail offer riders an often rare opportunity to enjoy the countryside, increasing the feeling of wellbeing they achieve and particularly benefiting clients with autism.
Back Riding – here an instructor rides with a child who cannot ride unaided sitting in front of them. This is a particularly powerful tool for working with non-verbal children with autism. The combination of the child being held, the instructor speaking into the child’s ear and the movement of the horse, helps the child receive and retain information, whilst trot and canter can lead to children speaking for the first time. (Our work with people with autism draws on the ‘Horseboy Method’ which the University of Austin has called “a promising intervention for children with autism and their families”).
Sensory work – this involves clients sitting or lying on a stationary bareback horse, whilst the instructor helps them relax and feel the warmth of the animal. It calms people with autism and is also great for relieving tension in siblings and parents!
Groundwork – a non-riding activity where clients work with the horse to complete activities such as negotiating an obstacle course. This requires the establishment of a strong relationship with the horse and helps clients develop trust, improve communication skills, and enjoy an often rare sense of achievement as they succeed in a new challenge.
Carriage Driving – particularly beneficial for people who are unable to ride due to disability or who prefer a non-ridden challenge. As with our other activities it is delivered by expert instructors and offers physical, learning, social and personal benefits.
Horse Care Sessions and Stable Days – provide fabulous opportunities for riders and non-riders to learn how to relate to others and make new friends. They also help develop understanding and life skills, for example learning to wash a horse’s mane encourages personal hygiene, cleaning tack relates to the importance of wearing clean clothes etc.
Volunteering, work experience and student placements – we currently have 69 active volunteers and 22 students who are gaining skills and undertaking accredited qualifications (BHS Stage 1 and RDA Grades) whilst helping to run our equine services. Many of these people have a disability or additional need and/or come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
To create a fully inclusive environment which welcomes the whole community, embraces the family and engages with nature, the Conquest Centre site also provides:
A Café open to the whole community which is run by trainees with additional needs, offering them the opportunity to gain work and life skills.
A Sensory Room designed to provide a relaxing environment and improve sensory skills, co-ordination and language. For many clients using this before an equine session is extremely beneficial as it leaves them relaxed with improved concentration. For families the Room offers a much needed opportunity to bond in a peaceful space and explore new techniques for calming their child – learning they can take back to the home.
An outdoor play and picnic area (with resident chickens and goats) which provides an often rare opportunity for our clients, their families and public visitors to have fun together in a relaxed, non-judgemental, rural environment.
Public riding and regular competitions and demonstrations which are open to all and offer disabled and non-disabled people the opportunity to ride, socialise and compete together.
Hosted services – Conquest encourages other services supporting people with disabilities, their families, and the wider community, to operate from our site. Currently for example, we host a Day Centre for adults with learning difficulties and a range of Therapists offering treatments including Shiatsu and Equine Assisted Learning and Therapy.