Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have traveled to one of Morocco’s most prestigious equestrian clubs to learn about how therapy using horses can benefit children with disabilities.
The couple walked hand-in-hand as they arrived at the Royal Equestrian Sports Complex in Rabat on Monday. The royal pair walked past horses in a stable block and reached out to stroke the animals.
One rider, 24-year-old Driss, told them how his youth had involved violence and drugs, and sakd the equine therapy has helped him regain confidence and made him feel “calmer”.
Driss now has a job with the Centre Social Kariat and helps disadvantaged and disabled children develop their skills and learn how to ride.
The Duke, who grew up riding and still plays polo, told him: “It’s amazing what you can do here. For someone like you, who must have lost so much trust in all sorts of people around you growing up, you’ve been able to put your trust in horses. The trust between us and horses, it’s a very special thing. I’m missing my old horses.”
The couple then watched a grooming session with three Shetland ponies – Caramel, Xina and Molly, with some of the children who have benefitted from the Equine Assisted Therapy [EAT or Equi-therapy] programme, in one of the club’s outdoor manages.
“Has anyone got any carrots?” joked Harry, noticing that Molly was shaking. “She’s a bit nervous, this one.”
“Well, we all get a little camera shy, I understand,” said the Duchess.
The couple were there to learn more about the country’s developing programme of equine therapy for children with special needs, funded by King Mohamed.
Arriving at the Royal Equestrian Club Dar Essalam, the country’s main equestrian venue, they were introduced to Louis Broski, the founder of the Centre Social Kariat which works with mentally and physically disabled young people.
Mr Broski, who has trained horses for more than 30 years, is one of the country’s leading figures in equine therapy.
“It was a challenge,” he told them. “I started with one child, but now 16 years later we have 100 children. My aim is for all disabled children to be fully integrated into Moroccan society.”
“That is just so important, and this is just a gorgeous space you have here,” the Duchess told him.
The Royal couple met Ekram, 20, who has Down Syndrome, and began riding at the club a month ago.
Speaking through a translator, she told them “I love the connection with the horses, it already makes me feel relaxed and more confident. And I like being outside, with nature.”
Meghan told her: “Wow, you’re very impressive. What an accomplished lady. I imagine it’s so therapeutic as well as meditative.”
Harry and Meghan also watched a riding demonstration in another outdoor manege, with three autistic children riding ponies, while one of the equine therapists explained how they start the children with grooming ponies before gradually building them up to ride.
“It’s a wonderful, holistic approach,” said Duchess.
Asking staff where they all travel from each day to work, Meghan said: “I imagine no matter where you all come from, it’s so worth it.
“It’s amazing what you all do here. Really impressive.”
The Duke added: “You’ve got the space, the horses, and the king’s support. Keep up the amazing work. It would be wonderful to see more of this across Morocco.”
The couple also met with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who have benefitted from the programmes at the centre, where the Duchess reverted to French again, wishing them “Bonne journee”.
Horse riding for children with special needs has been shown to improve children’s communication skills, boost their confidence and help them build relationships.
The Princess Royal is president of the Riding for the Disabled Association in the UK.
Later today, the Duke and Duchess will attend a cookery session which will include a recipe for pancakes from her Together cookbook, and a trip to a market inside a picturesque walled garden.
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