Transforming Lives Through Horses: A Clare Social Enterprise delivers positive change

Transforming Lives Through Horses: A Clare Social Enterprise delivers positive change

In the tranquil Clare countryside, Niamh and Máire are providing an innovative approach to personal development and mental health support, with the help of some unlikely partners – horses.

Combining Niamh Harney’s expertise as an equine professional with Máire Kennedy’s background in mental health, their collaborative efforts are yielding profound transformations for individuals and groups alike.

Equine Centred Services is a Social Enterprise, which is a business whose objective is to achieve a social, societal or environmental impact, rather that maximising profits. They work with a lot of teenagers as well as children and adults, and they also provide sessions for groups like staff teams, community groups and mental health services.

Central to their method is the concept of “experiential learning.” As Máire explains, “It’s not talk therapy; it’s experiential. We learn about ourselves through the experience of interacting with the horses.” There is no riding involved – clients are on the ground in a large arena with Niamh, Máire and the horses. The arena acts as the story board, and the client steps in and becomes part of it. The horses might become characters; like ‘dad’, or ‘fear’, or maybe ‘the calm one.’ “The client sees what the client sees,” says Máire. “It’s amazing what they see.”

Niamh adds, “We believe that the client has the solutions. We don’t have anyone else’s solutions. We help them find their own solutions.”

The presence of horses, with their innate ability to remain present in the moment, serves as a catalyst for self-discovery and mindfulness. “Change can happen so fast,” observes Máire. Clients often find themselves experiencing profound insights without the need for verbal communication. “People really experience themselves in their body,” says Niamh. “As they calm, the horses calm. The actual experience of what’s going on, that’s what brings change.”

“It can be easy for us as humans to be fixated on our stories,” Máire adds, “of what has happened, what was happening or what might happen. But here, we are focused on the present moment, what is actually happening right now. Clients come out of the arena knowing, ‘This is what I’m really feeling. This is what is really going on for me.’ And if you come to that – that realization and acceptance – that’s when you can start to change.”

Niamh started Equine Centred Services herself in 2016, and says that she received crucial support along the way from Clare Local Development Company (CLDC) in navigating the challenges of starting a social enterprise.

Niamh wants to encourage anyone with a passion project to understand how important it is to seek support early on. “This business was from my heart,” she said. “I thought it would all be easy because I loved the work. But there’s times where you’re stuck, filling out forms or doing accounts or giving a presentation or those things that aren’t your strong points, and you can’t move forward. If I hadn’t had someone to reach out to for a bit of support when I hit those blocks, this business never would have happened.”

In addition to training programmes and support networks, Niamh also got one-to-one mentoring. “You can’t measure the importance of these things. If I could give one piece of advice, I would say: Reach out for support sooner! I never even knew I needed the support, and now I wish I had reached out sooner.”

Clare Local Development Company is a community organization that supports individuals and communities to overcome obstacles and build resilience in their own lives and communities. They operate a Social Enterprise Network which supports people like Niamh to contribute to a better world. As Niamh’s own Equine Centred Services continues to touch lives and inspire change, it stands as a testament to the power of social enterprises in Clare in creating a brighter, more compassionate future for all.

CLDC is selected to deliver LEADER programme for next 5 years!

CLDC is selected to deliver LEADER programme for next 5 years!

We are so excited to share that we at CLDC have been selected to deliver the LEADER programme for the next 5 years in Clare!

This is huge news, and we have so much gratitude for all the work our staff has put in. It shows!

We are looking forward to working with our communities in Clare to become more resilient, empowered, innovative and sustainable in the years to come!

[Pictured: Doirin, our CEO, and Agnes O’Shaughnessy, our LEADER coordinator]

Prevent Minimise & Mitigate Invasive Species

Prevent Minimise & Mitigate Invasive Species

Don’t miss out on this valuable opportunity to enhance your skills and contribute to the prevention of invasive species in our community!

We are delighted to announce that applications are currently being accepted for our fully funded, LANTRA accredited course on “Prevent Minimize and Mitigate Invasive Species.” Valued at over €600, this comprehensive 3-day program equips participants with essential skills and knowledge while offering LANTRA certification in the following areas:

PA1 – Safe Handling & Application of Pesticides (QQI: 5N2466)

PA6INJ – Pesticide Injection Equipment

PA6A – Hand Held Applicator (Knapsack Sprayer) (QQI: 5N0731)

PA6AW – Hand Held near Water

Training sessions are scheduled to commence in various locations across Co. Clare during the last week of February and the first week of March 2024, following this schedule:

Ennis Group 1: Sessions on 26th (online), 29th Feb, and 1st March (in Ennis)

Ennis Group 2: Sessions on 2nd (in Ennis), 8th, and 9th March (in Ennis)

Ballyvaughan Group 3: Sessions on 26th (online), 27th, and 28th February (in Ballyvaughan)

West Clare Group 4: Sessions on 2nd (in Ennis), 6th, and 7th March (venue TBC locally)

East Clare Group 5: Sessions on 2nd (in Ennis), 4th, and 5th March (venue TBC locally)

Act fast as spots on this course are limited, and once filled, registration will be closed.
The course is opened to anyone (job seekers, tidy towns volunteers, landscapers, builders, farmers, landowners & RSS participants) and no experience necessary.

To secure your spot, please register here, or click on the following link:

For any inquiries about the course, feel free to contact Alex at:; 083 087 9146

FREE home energy trainings start this week!

FREE home energy trainings start this week!

Our free Home Energy Saving Course is continuing this January after a short break. This LEADER funded initiative is helping householders to understand their home energy use and offer tips to reduce consumption and be more energy efficient – very timely as we all struggle with rising bills at this time of year.

The online training sessions, will recommence this Wednesday 17th January for five weeks and run from 7.30 to 9pm. All are welcome, to attend one or all of the sessions!

Visit to register and for further details.

Over the remaining five weeks we will be looking at how we can use simple devices to monitor and manage our energy use. We will also be discussing our choices and behaviours around our transport energy and how working together as communities can lead to innovative renewable energy projects. It is a great chance to network with others and learn from each other.

Once registered, you will be able to access previous sessions on no and low cost measures to saving energy, understanding energy bills, insulation, household BER’s and Solar PV.

The course is facilitated by AstonECO on behalf of CLDC.

Securing Socio-Economic Rights and a Just Transition in Clare – You’re invited, Monday Nov 6th!

Securing Socio-Economic Rights and a Just Transition in Clare – You’re invited, Monday Nov 6th!

Communities in Clare at risk of an unjust transition, report finds. "We can’t rely on people’s goodwill one more time, what we need are resources." [Participant quote]

A first of its kind research project conducted in Clare which examined the effects on Clare communities of the transition to net zero carbon emissions has found that there is a risk of ‘an unfair transition in the county’ unless significant measures are taken to address this. The report: ‘Fair Clare: Securing Socio-Economic Rights and a Just Transition in Clare’ is jointly authored by Kieran Harrahill and Roisin Greaney both from TASC – Think Tank for Action on Social Change, who conducted a series of workshops with a wide range of communities in the county over the course of summer 2023

The report will be launched at a free event on Monday November the 6th at 7 pm in the Templegate Hotel, Ennis. Tickets must be booked in advance at this link:

..or by calling Clare PPN on 087-1617375 during office hours.

The report can be read in full HERE and the beautiful artist-designed print copies will be available on the night for those attending the launch.

Padraic Hayes, a Shannon based steering committee member for this project said:

“We’re really proud of this work and the fact that it has been developed directly by groups of people who are affected by poverty and discrimination in our communities. One of the main things we’ve learned is that if we can improve the services needed by those of us who are worst off, that actually everyone will benefit.”

Groups who participated in the lively discussion sessions for the project included those perceived to be at risk from climate action: low-income farmers, and other people on low incomes in rural areas including single parents, older people, people with disabilities, carers and others. Dedicated workshops were held with men from the Traveller community and with people who have come here seeking protection as a result of the war in Ukraine and with people living within the international protection system in Clare. The workshops were held in a range of Clare towns – Kilrush, Ennistymon, Shannon, Scariff, Ennis and Killaloe with everything from turf to tourism coming under scrutiny.

Sarah Clancy part of the Clare PPN team who oversaw the collaborative project observed:

‘We don’t want this report to sit on a shelf, it contains real issues and real proposals to solve them gathered from ordinary people some of whom are living in very difficult circumstances around the county. We are launching it now in advance of three forthcoming election cycles- the local and EU elections in 2024, and the General Election which is on the horizon and we want to make its recommendations part of every existing and would-be politicians policy platform whatever party they are with’.

The strikingly-designed report builds onwards from Clare PPN’s previous work which examined poverty in Clare, and also makes for stark reading. Communities ranked housing and health as their key and urgent concerns alongside cost-of-living issues and with many expressing their worries about the care available for themselves, family members and others. This report doesn’t stop there however – it makes 27 recommendations for local and national policy makers on how some of these issues can be addressed in ways that tackle both climate action and poverty reduction at the same time.

Suggestions include developing an innovative a social enterprise incubator, that the Local Authority itself should adopt ‘community wealth building’ as its approach, that the national retrofit schemes no-cost plans should be extended to low and middle income households, that existing farm supports should be tailored to local needs and landscapes and it calls for the establishment of local information and help centres, community development projects and a suggests that a trades school should be established in an area of deprivation in Clare.

The project was commissioned by four local organisations working together: Clare County Council, Clare Local Development Company, Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board and Clare Public Participation Network and was funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development under the Dormant Accounts Fund and many of its findings have been fed into Clare’s draft Local Economic and Community Plan.

For more information or comments, please contact:
Sarah Clancy / 086 384 0973 /

What is a Social Enterprise??

What is a Social Enterprise??

Although there are many definitions, the bottom line is…A social enterprise is an enterprise [or business] whose objective is to achieve a social, societal or environmental impact, rather that maximising profits for its owners or stakeholders.  

Social enterprises in Clare work in many sectors: Improving the environment, strengthening community supports, supporting employment opportunities locally and regionally and working for the overall betterment of society.

CLDC, over the past 30 years, has supported the establishment and development of Social Enterprises across a range of sectors including tourism, community services, childcare organisations, and climate action.

In January 2023, CLDC launched the Clare Social Enterprise Network.  The primary aim of the network is to give Social Enterprises in Clare a platform to interact with other like-minded people, to ask questions, share ideas, experiences & learnings, and to identify opportunities for working together and for wider collaboration.

We had a range of events throughout 2023 to offer networking opportunities and soft support in the common issues facing Social Enterprises, including:

  • Fundraising / revenue generation.
  • Business planning
  • Strategy Planning and Sustainability
  • Communication and Marketing
  • Legal & HR – recruitment & management

Social Enterprise Training Programme

Right now, in our Social Enterprise Network, we are really excited to have Evelyn Cormican delivering a bespoke training programme to assist Social Enterprises with day-to-day operations and future planning. The training is being delivered through a combination of in person and online training and small group mentoring sessions. The overall aim of the training is to provide support and direction to social enterprises to take their business to the next level.

On completion of the training programme participants will be given an opportunity to take part in a showcase event (Spring 2024) with local businesses and corporates. This event is an opportunity for social enterprises to pitch their businesses to companies that have a corporate social responsibility policy.

If you are a social enterprise or thinking of becoming a social enterprise and you are not on our database, we would love to hear from you!

Please email Aisling [] for further information and to be part of our dynamic network.

Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) Social Enterprise Impact Award

ILDN have launched their Social Enterprise IMPACT award, which is a competition focused on impact and impact measurement. The Awards will have three categories – medium/large social enterprise, small social enterprise, and ‘young’ social enterprise – with winners in each category receiving an award of €10,000, and runners up receiving €5,000. The prize money can be used towards any costs associated with running the social enterprise. For further information and a copy of the application form click here.

Closing date Sunday 10th December 2023.