Changing Lives Through Horse (CLtH) was launched by The British Horse Society (BHS) in January 2017 with the aim of inspiring disengaged individuals to reconnect with society through working with horses. The programme is based on developing six life skills – communication, confidence, relationships, responsibility, team work and personal achievement – whilst learning through horses.
The programme launched with 12 centres and is now being delivered at 50 approved centres across the UK. Our recent marketing and engagement with our centre proprietors at our National Conventions has led to eight new centres coming on board to deliver the programme. Most recently, we have a new approved centre at Gloucestershire Mounted Police which has received their two days of training and are starting to work with participants from the local community.
Our CLtH trainers have trained almost 170 coaches to deliver the programme provision at their centres. The 50 lead coaches are all qualified to a minimum of BHS Stage Three in Complete Horsemanship and are BHS Accredited Professional Coaches.
At the end of the 2018/19 academic year, 389 young people had accessed the programme in total since the programme started in 2017. The academic year of 2018/19 had 120 participants join the programme achieving over 300 certificates between them. Centres find the certificates help to keep participants motivated and focussed on their next goal.
So far this academic year we have had 199 participants accessing the programme, this is an increase of 65% for the same month during 2019. The feedback from centres has been fantastic and they are all delighted to be gaining recognition from their local schools and referral agents for their excellent work and dedication to CLtH. Graham Catterall from Nelson Park Equestrian Centre in Kent said “I am overwhelmed with the amount of enquiries I have received for CLtH this academic year. I can now not accommodate any more participants on the programme on a Thursday which is a day I have dedicated to CLtH since 2017.”
Since the start of the 2019/20 academic year we have had an increase of 400% in centres joining the programme. This now takes us to 5 centres in Wales, 3 in Scotland, 2 in Ireland and 40 in England helping us to reach out to participants who will benefit from CLtH across most areas. We have 11 centres awaiting training which had to be postponed due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Thanks to the generous support and donations, we have been able to fully fund 15 young people to access the CLtH programme for the 2019/20 academic year. We have also been successful in partially funding a further three participants on the programme who are having their first introductions to equine assisted learning due to them struggling in the formal classroom environment.
The benefits for these participants are overwhelming; with one of the participants from Equitots Equestrian Centre in Lanarkshire going on to win the Scottish volunteer of the year award after improving her team work and communication skills. This is such a huge achievement for a participant who a year ago wouldn’t interact with others or attend mainstream school. They have now secured an apprenticeship at another BHS Approved Centre to work towards BHS qualifications with an opportunity to train to become a BHS Coach. Lee Valentine the proprietor said “The CLtH programme has helped to add routine, care and support to those who may never have had the opportunity to experience horses or ponies in their day to day lives. The uptake in the area has been huge due to the success of the programme”. Lee has been running online learning sessions for the participants via ZOOM during the lockdown period. “ Many have gone on to complete the online Challenge Awards that the BHS developed to help centres maintain relationships and routines with their participants during these uncertain times. It was important to me as a coach to ensure the participants felt we hadn’t abandoned them. For many Equitots provides them with a safe place where they feel cared for.”
In January 2020 HRH Princess Anne visited Parbold Equestrian Centre in Lancashire to see how the CLtH programme has benefitted individuals at their centre. HRH interacted with several groups of participants and watched both riding and stable management sessions. The centre has had fantastic results with participants and the whole Parbold team were particularly proud of Sean who started the programme in 2018 after facing many struggles in mainstream education. Steve Bennett, the proprietor at the centre has been working closely with Sean and said “It has been wonderful to see the engagement and excitement on the faces of the participants. Having been unsure if Sean would turn up today it was fantastic to hear and see him speak to HRH. Today created memories the children will never forget.”
During 2017/2018/2019, a lack of funding was highlighted by our centres as the main reason for participants leaving or not being able to access the programme. We therefore have successfully used donations and funding for the purpose of bursaries. The funds have been distributed to participant’s age 11-18 who have been unable to access local authority funding and who therefore would have missed out on the benefits of the CLtH programme.
An example of a participant who would have missed out is Sienna, who we started to fund at Carrington Riding Centre in March. Sienna left education due to extreme bullying and after a failed suicide attempt. We have recently received this valuable feedback from the participant.
“Through my time on the course I have improved my social skills, my riding has improved and I have moved up three riding classes. I have gained confidence in both my riding and my horse care and stable management. I have recently received some British Horse Society awards. My behaviour has also improved and I also find I enjoy dealing with the more difficult horses. It has also given me a sense of responsibility. I have now joined Reaseheath College part time and I am doing an Equine study course which I would never have had the confidence to do if it wasn’t for Changing Lives.”
This shows that the programme is achieving our mission which is to ‘To give young people, regardless of their background, the opportunity to develop their skills enabling them to return to education and/or employment’
Jacob is currently attending The Mare and Foal Sanctuary having received bursary funding. Jacob is 14 years old and has dyslexia and dyscalculia and was struggling with class sizes and interaction at school. Due to this he was not currently on target to achieve the required grades to be accepted on to an equine related apprenticeship. Jacobs’s father sadly passed away which left him feeling depressed and lacking focus when at school, leaving his Mum to consider alternative education for him. Jacob has now been attending the centre since the Summer. Head of Education at the centre, Dawn Neil, says
“Jacob shows a genuine curiosity to learning about equine welfare and care. He is developing good relationships with others and greater confidence to communicate and interact. Jacob is beginning to demonstrate resilience and a real sense of personal achievement through the CLtH sessions.”
Jacobs Mum added “The course has given Jacob direction, and the value cannot be underestimated.”
The CLtH programme for participants like Sienna and Jacob is proving a valuable tool in helping to change lives.
We are currently working through further applications from centres that are looking to gain much needed funding for the programme for the 2020/21 academic year. Due to an increase in bursary applications we have formed a panel to ensure that all participant applications are considered fairly.
We held a Changing Lives through Horses specific coach event in November 2020 which was attended by 24 coaches with representation from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. We had training from an Occupational Therapist and Physiotherapist which the coaches found beneficial and took away tips that they could use to help them overcome challenges in the riding centre environment. As the programme has grown and is now delivered in more centres we had planned to run the 2020 coach events more regionally to make it more accessible for coaches. These plans have unfortunately been put on hold due to COVID-19 but we are working on the delivery of remote sessions on funding and mental health as these are areas our centres have requested more training on.
In 2019 we carried out fantastic joint work on a rescue project which has seen us form strong links with the RSPCA. The aim of the project was to successfully rehome suitable horses/ponies into our BHS approved centres, to be used for Changing Lives through Horses projects. There is an affinity between the animals and the participants as they continue their rehab together. We have so far rehomed 25 horses and ponies in to 11 of our CLtH centres. All of them have settled in well and begun their riding centre training. The project was welcomed by centres and the feedback has been heart warming. The project has had to be put on hold due to COVID-19 but we hope to get more horses/ponies rehomed as soon as restrictions allow. We have 7 centres who are keen to be involved in the project and we are excited to be able to offer more rescue horses a second chance to be loved and cared for.
We thank you for your continued support which will enable us to reach out to many more young people, to use horses to help change their lives.
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