The phrase ‘follow your dreams and see what can happen’ is simply an expression to some people, while for others, it as a mantra to be followed with fervour. For Jacqueline White, that whole concept was more of a slow burner.
Having spent her childhood growing up in Cabra, Dublin city, Jacqueline dreamed of horses. As a young girl, she would attend a local market on the first Sunday of every month and see boys with their horses gathering together.
“You would see them with bits of rope in the horse’s mouth and it was just heart-breaking looking at them all,” recalled Jacqueline.
She would beg her father to let her have a pony, but their location in Dublin’s inner city meant that there simply wasn’t enough room. It was seeing these horses, without exacting care, that Jacqueline became captivated with the idea of owning a rescue horse one day.
Before she met her husband Matthew, Jacqueline started saving for riding lessons. She worked hard at her job in the city and eventually raised enough funds needed to buy a horse of her own and began riding three times a week. Luckily, her aunt liked riding the horse too and paid for half of the livery expenses.
She eventually sold that horse after a couple of years and six months after that, she met her now-husband Matthew. He and Jacqueline moved to his farm in Co. Wexford, where they now live with their eighteen-year-old daughter Aoife.
With more space, the determined Dubliner received a little help from relatives and resumed saving up for another horse. She finally gathered enough money to purchase her two beautiful equines.
“My grand-uncle was horse-mad and when he passed away, he left his possessions to my grandmother” Jacqueline explained. “When she passed away, she left something to my mum who divided it between the family and I was told that mine was my ‘horse fund’, I wasn’t allowed to spend it on anything else” laughed the mum of one.
Jaqueline would dote on the animals and loved spending time with them “when times got tough on the farm, you would find me out with the horses, even if it was for just five minutes”.
The Cabra woman had been working as a personal manager in Wexford town and found balancing her home-life and her work-life very stressful.
During this time, Jacqueline had also been studying Equine Handling, Husbandry and Instruction and Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning Facilitation courses online with Elista Education, Abbyleix. She also completed a QQI course in special needs assisting.
With the courses under her belt, she left her management position in Wexford town and decided to turn her dream into a reality.
The Bannow Bay Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning was launched just under a year ago. As a start-up, Jaqueline had been working with just two horses, Sam - a retired hunting horse and Polly is a cob.
The Bannow-based therapy centre is all non-riding, as there is already riding therapy centres available. The difference here is that people can receive one-to-one time with the horses and will be allowed to groom them and spend time in the horses' company while keeping their feet safely on the ground.
“The youngest person I have here is five years old,” said Jacqueline, who quickly adds that the centre is not solely for people who have intellectual disabilities or autism.
“The centre is for anybody who loves horses and finds it comforting and calming to be around them” she explained. Jacqueline also has clients who suffer from anxiety or depression as people find that it helps to relax them.
“Horses are non-judgemental, they don’t hold grudges, what you put in, you get back,” said Jacqueline, who lives right beside the beach, which adds to the tranquillity of the centre.
The first session involves meeting the horse and making sure that everyone is feeling comfortable.
Clients would start with brushing and grooming while Jacqueline gauges how the client is coping with the horse and visa-versa. Later, Jacqueline would plan the second session, based on how well the meeting went.
Jaqueline admits that people often have the misconception that people with horses are rich and can be snobby, but the Dublin woman proves otherwise. “I believe that if you really want something, you can do it yourself,” she said, referring to the dream of rescuing horses.
Well that dream became a reality just this week because Jaqueline took delivery of three rescue horses this Wednesday (July 3rd), by the names of Denzel, Annie and Erin, from ‘My Lovely Horse Rescue’ centre.
She plans to start training them up immediately and they have been welcomed into the centre with open arms, ready to do the same for others.
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