It is always good to get news from the Gift Your Gear groups and to learn more about the difference Gift Your Gear makes. This story has just arrived from Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust’s ‘Fresh Tracks about their recent Ten Tors Challenge. A very big thank you to Malcolm Snelgrove for all the wonderful photo’s and Clare for the super feedback,
At 7.30am on Saturday 12th May 2018, Dartmoor ponies George and Smartie led the way at the start of the Ten Tors Jubilee Challenge from Okehampton Army Camp. Young people with a range of disabilities took part in what is one of the biggest outdoors adventure events for young people of all abilities in Britain today.
The ponies were the stars of the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust’s ‘Fresh Tracks’, an equine assisted learning programme created by the DPHT at the request of the Army as a special category of the Jubilee Challenge. It is for young people with a range of complex, challenging life issues – from both mainstream and special needs schools – who train hard to lead Dartmoor ponies across the open Moor.
In the end, it was not just the students who were helped by the ponies: Leader Dru Butterfield struggled with suspected cellulitis half way round the course and credits her students – and Dartmoor pony George – with ‘carrying’ her much of the way to enable her to complete the gruelling 15-mile trek.
Dru was not the only one overcoming health issues on the day: professional photographer Malcolm Snelgrove, who has given his services free as a mentor and to photographically ‘diarise’ the entire training process, had a stroke in December 2017. He always said: “Getting to Fresh Tracks 2018 was my first main mile stone on the road to recovery. Though clearly harder than I expected, it was very rewarding and felt like a huge accomplishment for me too!”
Many of the 12 students aged 14-16 from Ivybridge Community College and Ratcliffe School at Dawlish readily admitted that they would never have completed the event without the relationships built with – and motivation provided by – DPHT adoption and education ponies George and Smartie.
The training has been tough; there were many challenges overcome and not every student who started the programme has managed to complete it. But the achievement at Ten Tors brings enormous rewards for every student – and benefits to their families, schools and even their future work prospects. Fresh Tracks has helped their personal development and enabled them to gain transferrable life skills in a way and in an environment that they might otherwise be unlikely to experience.
Students have undergone 10 weeks of intensive training to learn to handle the ponies; walking safely in the Moorland environment; first aid and teamwork. They were supported by experienced pony handlers, moorland guides, first aiders and their own schools’ support staff, as well as members of the DPHT Volunteer Team.
Fresh Tracks has been created, coordinated and delivered by the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (DPHT) at the request of the Army, as part of its ‘Ponies Inspiring People’ equine assisted learning programmes.
Says Dru Butterfield from DPHT: “The pressures on students are increasingly heavy and we are seeing more and more impact on their opportunity to learn and their motivation. Working with ponies enables them to be more independent and prove to themselves that they really CAN achieve if they set their minds to something. Dartmoor ponies have shown once again that their robust, gentle nature is perfect for equine assisted learning; they demand the focus and respect of their handlers but give great reward when students can deal with their pony on the open moor. “
Fresh Tracks is a life changing experience for the students.
The primary aim of the DPHT is to preserve the traditional single-coloured Dartmoor pony on Dartmoor. We work with their breeders, mostly local farmers, to raise awareness of the issues facing the breed’s survival on Dartmoor and to promote its temperament, so adding value to them and encouraging people to buy them as all round family ponies and for conservation grazing.
Find out more about ‘Ponies Inspiring People’ programmes, including ‘Fresh Tracks’, please see the website – www.dpht.co.uk
Follow Malcolm’s journey and his work with the Stroke Association at http://www.stepoutmoor.com/