When a change of ministry meant the Barter family moved from rural Sussex to London, it was a difficult transition for 11-year-old Josiah. Hannah Barter, a social worker and clergy spouse, talks about how therapeutic riding lessons for Josiah and help from the Trust transformed the family’s lives.
Josiah has a developmental coordination disorder, known as dyspraxia, which means your brain will tell your body to do something, but your body doesn't do it in the way you want it to.
It can be frustrating for him, not just academically, but emotionally and socially too. Josiah has to concentrate on a whole other level to get his schoolwork done and take part in activities.
When we moved to London, Josiah didn’t have the freedom of the fields to run around in and the forest school that he’d benefitted from so much. We had to use our imagination to think about what helped him in Sussex and how we could make it happen for him in London.
Finding joy in horses
At our previous home, Josiah loved looking at the horses in the surrounding fields and getting involved. When we moved to Ealing, we walked across the common and spotted some stables.
It coincided with a conversation with Josiah’s educational psychologist, who recommended something like gymnastics or yoga to help his posture and core strength.
We got Josiah a riding lesson - he absolutely loved it and hasn’t looked back. He enjoys lessons once a week and is part of the pony club, which focuses on theory and practical stable tasks.
Part of me felt bad about applying to a charity, especially for something which could be seen as a luxury if you didn’t know Josiah’s needs. But the Trust understood - that as well as helping Josiah - it was also for the mental health and the emotional wellbeing of our family.
Thanks to the Wellbeing grant, we’ve been able to keep his lessons going and continue the positive effects they are having in his life.
It's more than just a hobby; it’s made a huge difference to Josiah’s abilities and helped alleviate the difficulties a ministry move meant for him as a clergy child. His confidence has blossomed, and he’s developed a special bond with the pony he rides, Arthur.
Horse riding has also helped with his transition to secondary school. The skills Josiah’s developed through riding, like coordination and listening, have made him feel part of something and given him a sense of belonging. Without this, I don’t think he’d be in mainstream school.
Josiah’s physiotherapists are astounded at how much he has achieved. He’s thriving.
Helping the whole family
But it hasn't benefited just Josiah. As a mum that works, I’m not always able to do the school run, so I miss out on socialising with other parents. Through pony club, I’ve met lots of other mums and we chat.
It’s become an important place for the whole family, just across the road. If ministry or my social work is tough, we’ve got this space, a bit of an oasis. It’s benefitted us all immensely.
To feel someone is holding your family, that Clergy Support Trust is doing that - it's incredible. To say that it's changed our lives is not an exaggeration. It’s hard to put into words the difference it has made to us.