Jenny Legatte of equestrian social enterprise Equibuddy tells how sharing resources enabled her to combine charitable and commercial aims.
Jenny Legatte, founder of equestrian social enterprise Equibuddy, explains how sharing resources enabled her to combine social and commercial aims.
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Why did you start Equibuddy?
I had two passions in my life, all revolving around horses and I did a lot on a voluntary basis and I realised that my work with Riding for the Disabled and with vaulting, which is a really strange sport but it’s gymnastics on a moving horse. If I combined the two I would end up with something that is much more powerful than the two separate entities. But it was a bit of a stretch really because the club vaulting had got to international level so it was really an elite sport in its own right and part of the Equestrian Games, and the RDA seemed a million miles away. But I worked for both and I realised we actually need the same horse. This great big powerful horse was the key for both parties so if we could work together, share our resources it could maybe work. So the first thing we did, in a pilot scheme was we lent a retired, international horse to Riding for the Disabled and it was a great success doing this vaulting thing. So everybody says, how do you go further? Well you need these big, powerful, well trained horses so if the club vaulters would share their resources, train some more horses then we could really make the thing work together. So in 2005 we set off to do just that.
How did Equibuddy start?
We got started at very beginning voluntarily, we tried it. Then we started applying for funding and we found it was quite difficult because we don’t quite fit in the box. We tick lots of boxes: are we international sport, are we therapy? And all these questions! So we did a lot of marketing of what we’re doing, and getting people, those that came to see us, really believed in us. And one of the first to believe in us was the Lloyds TSB foundation for Scotland. And they came and saw it and said yes we’ll help you. We’re not sure whether you’re international sport or for the disabled but we’ve got the idea of what you’re doing. We’ll give you £10,000 but you have to match it to get a salary for somebody to do it. So we went on working at it and we got Rank Foundation who came and saw it and they said okay we’ll match it and that got us started.
How does Equibuddy benefit the kids in therapy?
The skill that they learn first and foremost is about trust and confidence. It’s really a big confidence trick when you see it. Why should you be able to do that? And you look at it and think, I could never do that! But with a well trained horse they get their confidence and we go little by little until they’re on the horse and doing their exercises on the horse. It’s called vaulting which is a difficult name because it’s not about jumping on and off, it’s about doing your exercises on the horse and for the kids in therapy it’s much more fun than the Swiss ball. We’ve worked the horses with children in wheelchairs and got them on from a ramp and then held them on and helped them. And we’ve worked with children that are blind, have no language, have cerebral palsy, have autism, there’s always a place that we can find for them to work in, and just take it from wherever they are, at their level, at their pace and just take it to the distance they want to go. And some will go far, far further than you ever believed. But all the time they’re working their muscles, they’re working on core stability, balance, all the things that kids really need to do as they develop. We have a lot of kids with us that are boys, who have got a little bit left behind in the playground, and it’s a funny way of doing it but it’s different and they do the exercises by mistake. They don’t realise how much running they’re doing. How much balance, board work they’re doing on the horse, and how much they’re actually relating to each other, being disciplined, and working together. Team work and self confidence grows beyond recognition.
Does equestrian vaulting work as a form of therapy?
Totally, the parents will tell you, in a big way. The therapy committee of the Borders General Hospital sends us youngsters and they come and see them with us and we talk about it and refer them. Some of them come for a period of time and when they’ve achieved their goals and they’re getting on well in the playground, they’ll send others for their place. But all the time these children are also beginning to integrate with others so a lot of them will go on and join mainstream, some of them won’t because they’ve decided another sport is the one for them. There is no hard and fast rule. You can come in at any level and leave at any level but we can serve from the very, very disabled right up to those that are going international with the same horse, the same resources which is powerful.
Do you have to run Equibuddy like a business?
Well it’s definitely a charity that runs as a business, I think all charities now have to really look and see what they’re doing. And we are very lucky that we can provide a service to others and not just ask for donations. Donations are great and really helpful and that’s how we got started but we are trying very much to offer services and become self-sustaining.
Why did you enter the Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneur awards?
The Bank of Scotland is already our bank and we were approached by somebody from within the bank, Gillian who came and said to me did you know that this competition was going on and it might help your charity. So I said right, okay let’s have a look and met up with her and talked about it and then I sat down and I found it really helpful although really hard work to put things in the right order in my mind and certainly the lady from Lloyds TSB Foundation, who are also still helping us, with capacity building, when she visited me again, having done this application, she said wow, you certainly have cleared you mind and got things in the right order. We’ve had evaluations done of ourselves from the very beginning and this been really helpful to us and, in a way, this was an evaluation, more on the business side. When I’d already done the evaluation of what was going on with the children and the parents and the therapists so it was really a big learning curve for me to change my life. But of course I have a great team that work with me, because I tell you, it’s a big learning curve to put all these things together.