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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Big boost to equine therapy thanks to Sir Peter O'Sullevan Trust

Brightening your day with turf tales from beyond the tracks

Sir Peter O'Sullevan: the legendary commentator worked tirelessly for charity after his retirement
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A farm project working with disadvantaged young people will be able to expand its horse facilities thanks to a substantial grant from the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust.

Jamie’s Farm, established in 2009, provides residential courses to vulnerable young people across the UK. A key part of its programmes are therapeutic sessions working with horses – alongside farming activities, gardening and cooking.

The funding will enable the charity to improve facilities at its existing farms in Bath and Hereford, and contribute to the development of a new farm in Monmouth.

Jamie Feilden, CEO and founder of Jamie’s Farm, said: “We are thrilled to receive this generous donation from the legacy of Sir Peter, which will really breathe life into our vital equine provision. Young people across all our farms will hugely benefit from the transformational therapeutic work that will be able to take place with our horses.”

Horses have long been a powerful aid in numerous forms of therapy. Following one course, a year 9 pupil from Harris Orpington said: “I think what I will take away is confidence and independence. When I was working with the horse I had to tell her when to go and when to stop so we had to get used to each other and I had to have confidence that I could tell her to do it.”

Nigel Payne from the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust said: “Our trustees were intrigued by the whole concept of Jamie’s farm and the use of animals, in particular equines, in this way.”

Ultimate dream

It started with an innocent swipe to the right – most love stories do these days – but nothing could prepare former jockey Danni Neilan for the rollercoaster journey that would be start with the dating app Tinder.

Neilan had built up a wealth of experience in racing, working with the late great Dessie Hughes on the Curragh along with riding in bumpers and point-to-points, by the time she met a fighter from the dating site in January 2015.

While that relationship fizzled out, a spark was ignited within Neilan to pursue MMA (mixed martial arts), and the 27-year-old’s rapid progression through the fighting ranks between then and now have made the people who matter take notice, including renowned coach John Kavanagh.

She explains: “I became fascinated very quickly. I loved racing, but I always felt you needed a good horse or a certain amount of money to progress – in MMA, it’s every person for themselves.

“I’ve had seven fights throughout the past 12 months and I won five. My last loss came in the World Championships where I came home with a silver medal.”

As well as training every day under Kavanagh’s guidance, Neilan works as a full-time paediatric physiotherapist, but hinted that becoming a professional fighter may not be too far away.

She added: “It’s 14 months ago that I started out as an amateur and it looks as though that’s disappearing before my eyes.

“I’ve been looking for one more amateur fight before I turn pro in June, but nobody is taking the bait, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I turned pro sooner rather than later. Once you turn pro, within four fights you could be fighting in the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship], and that’s where I want to be.”

A Good Friday indeed

Middleham’s popular open day, sponsored by Arc, will return to its Good Friday slot this year, taking place on March 30.

Mark Johnston, Jedd O’Keeffe and Karl Burke are among the trainers opening their doors, while visitors can also see the rehabilitation facilities at Ann Duffield’s yard and watch a jumping demonstration at James Bethell’s Thorngill Stables. Alongside yard visits, events will include a Retraining of Racehorses musical ride, a donkey derby and showjumping competition.

Alongside Racing Welfare, last year’s open day raised money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Riding for the Disabled, Citizens Advice Bureau and the Middleham Sports and Wellbeing Association.

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Our trustees were intrigued by the whole concept of Jamie’s farm
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