This brief account of the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre, founded in 1989, is taken from The Voyage Out, Infant Jesus Sisters Ireland 1909-2009 by Catherine KilBride and Deirdre Raftery, published in 2009. This book is available from .
Of all the projects the IJ Sisters are involved in – and they are many and various – probably the most remarkable to the outside observer is the Pony Centre. Sr Mary Joy grew up with horses and, when she left school, developed her own equestrian business. After she joined the IJ congregation she was working at the London Light House, a centre for people with AIDS and HIV. After five years of being away from horses, she was encouraged by Sr Alice KilBride, who was Provincial Superior at the time, to use her equestrian skills and experience for the benefit of children and young people with special needs.
"It is truly a miracle how what was a very muddy patch of ground with no facilities such as electricity, toilets, telephone etc. has developed into today’s centre. God indeed works in mysterious ways and amazing things can and do happen. I found myself without money, planning permission, without local licence, without council consent but I did have three Shetland ponies and enthusiasm." [Mary Joy Langdon IJS]
The Centre has now grown into a place where children from all backgrounds and with all abilities and disabilities are welcome. There are eighteen ponies and full indoor school facilities. The Centre offers therapeutic riding sessions and teaching these children to care for animals. It also encourages children and young people to become volunteers and to help others. Young people are given the opportunity to gain qualifications; the Centre allows them to be involved in an outdoor physical activity in a healthy environment.
Many city children, who have little experience of a rural environment, come to the Centre and learn about nature while experiencing rural life. Sr Mary Joy sees as one of the main missions of the Centre “…to help children to hold onto their innocence by allowing them to be with ponies in a safe and supportive environment.” She is passionate in her belief that children should enjoy their childhood to the full, whatever their abilities or disabilities.
To discover more about the work of the Pony Centre, visit the Centre’s website: