What I would tell my pre-pandemic self – Follow your passion and share it with others

The pandemic brings with it a sense of urgency. Lasting uncertainty is a test of our resilience as human beings. The current global pandemic has been ongoing for over a year now and our everyday lives are deeply affected by unpredictable and sometimes drastic lockdown rules. In this context, it is important to be resourceful […]

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Image by Eleanor Smith
Image by Eleanor Smith

The pandemic brings with it a sense of urgency. Lasting uncertainty is a test of our resilience as human beings. The current global pandemic has been ongoing for over a year now and our everyday lives are deeply affected by unpredictable and sometimes drastic lockdown rules.

In this context, it is important to be resourceful and to find meaning in what we do. And joy. When many things are taken away from us, we are left with ourselves and our often unresolved questions. What do we want to do with our lives? Are we where we want to be? Could we make a change now?

Last week, I followed my passion in a way that I have not been able to do before. It was like the pieces of a jigsaw falling into place. A natural combination that should have happened ages ago: horses, nature, rehabilitation, prison, and photography.

Horse therapy for women in prison

Horse therapy, Eleanor Smith

I love horses. They have always been present in my life and I have been horse riding basically since I could walk.

What is new is that I managed to combine my passion for horses with another passion, helping people who find themselves in a difficult place in their lives (either due to drug abuse, encarceration or mental health issues).

I have written extensively about my integration and rehabilitation volunteer work with the Red Cross (rock climbing and prisoner rehab activities) and also touched upon my involvement with the UK prison art charity Koestler Awards last year (see here).

However last week marks the first time that I was involved in horse therapy. It has long been a dream of mine. Finding an opportunity has, however, been harder than expected.

International Women’s Day

We were a group of twelve women taking part in horse therapy together on a sunny day, way up a mountain on the outskirts of Bergen. Our group was made up of four inmates, a prison guard, a health professional and researcher, her assistent, two students, and three of us from local charities.

It struck me as very fitting for International Women’s Day (08 March) and I felt grateful for being able to mark the event in such a meaningful way.

This is going to be a regular activity from now on, taking place every two weeks on a Monday. It is organised by a local charity CRUX Kalfarhuset together with another, WayBack Bergen, and the local prison, Bergen Fengsel. The activity is also a research project with the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (hvl.no). The project leader is a qualified trainer in equine facilitated physiotherapy (Norwegian Equestrian Federation) at “Sætregården Hestesportsklubb” (Sætregården Equestrian Club) where the activity takes place.

As my Red Cross activities have been put on hold for several months over the last year due to COVID19, I have become increasingly involved with CRUX Kalfarhuset in Bergen. They have managed to continue with social hikes several times a week and on one of the hikes I found out about their horse therapy activities. I kept going on about it until I made the right connection and was invited to join.

My job: Take pictures & ensure a lasting memory

Friends, Eleanor Smith

As we were so many volunteers, my main role was to document the day by taking photographs. I spoke with everyone, helped them prepare their horses and of course took lots of pictures.

I took several portrait pictures and also anonymised pictures during the ride that can be used for further promotion of the activity.

The beauty of photography is that you can capture moments and immortalise them. These pictures mean that the good memories from the day can be relived instantly .

The portrait pictures were printed on proper photo paper and delivered to the four women in prison and are maybe already on a wall somewhere or on a desk. A memory of a sunny day. A promise of a bright future. Hope. Possibilities.

My photos: Horse therapy through the lense of a camera & pictures taken on horseback

Would you like to see more pictures from the day? Have a look at my “Horse therapy” photo album!

The eye of a horse, Eleanor Smith
The healing, soft nose of a horse, Eleanor Smith

For pictures taken on horseback: “Between the ears of a horse”.

Where does the road ahead lead?, Eleanor Smith

*Information about the research project at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (hvl.no) was added on 29 March 2021.

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Do you work in mental health? Do you need a hand with your communications?

I am a multilingual writer, content editor, proofreader and public relations specialist who helps organisations to make an impact. I am also a photographer who loves to capture animals, buildings, nature & people.

Find out more on my website https://eleanorsmith.no/ and here about my commitment to mental health and rehabilitation.

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