Closure threat to woman's pioneering horses therapy

The Oxford Times: Jo Corfield, with Welsh Cob Comet Buy this photo » Jo Corfield, with Welsh Cob Comet

A WOMAN who says her anorexia was cured by horses may have to close her horse therapy centre.

Jo Corfield battled with anorexia and bulimia for 30 years until she bought her son a horse.

She says her struggle to control the enormous animal made her realise she had the strength within her to conquer her own demons.

Inspired by the power of her experience, she started Hopethruhorses, an equine therapy centre.

Last year alone, more than 200 clients visited the centre, including people with autism, eating disorders and behavioural and other emotional problems.

But now, the owners of the 20-acre paddock she rents in Taston, near Charlbury, want to start a red deer breeding programme.

They originally gave Ms Corfield, 54, six months until January 1 to find a new home, but she said they had been lenient on the deadline as she still has no idea where she can take her 18 horses.

The mother-of-one said: “I am in a huge dilemma, and I have a lot of clients for whom it would be catastrophic if they couldn’t visit us.

“I would love to set the horses free into the wild but where can I?”

Visitors to the centre carry out specific tasks with the horses, but they are given as much freedom as they can, which is why having a large, open space is important to the therapy.

Ms Corfield said: “We put visitors individually or in groups among the herd and the energy created and the dynamic of the herd puts right a huge number of issues in one’s mind.

“Being among horses can be quite intimidating so it can build confidence, rebuild the way we think and help us learn to understand the way we think.

“Having a 1,000lb animal running towards you is intimidating, but realising those animals are in tune with us and that we can control them has a massive effect on life.

“If you believe you have got that power to cope, that is what most people need.”

The landowner was unavailable for comment.

One mum, who did not want to be named, visits the centre each Wednesday with her 10-year-old son, who has a form of autism which sees him regularly asked to leave school.

The Witney resident said horse therapy had transformed his behaviour, giving him a greater sense of empathy.

She said: “If it closed, it would be tragic for him and for us.

“We would face a situation where he would be back in school five days a week, and I would foresee us taking many steps back.”

Ms Corfield first started suffering from anorexia while she was at boarding school in Surrey at the age of 15. By 17 she was 5ft 5in tall, weighed five stone and had been taken to hospital.

She said: “I just stopped eating. The reason tends to be an utter lack of self worth, and self hatred. You starve yourself so that you will become invisible.”

After being released from hospital, she stopped being anorexic and became bulimic, intermittenty bingeing on food for the next two decades until the birth of her son.

Anyone who thinks they might be able to help find a new home for the therapy centre should get in touch via hopethruhorses.com

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