Bristol-based charity HorseWorld is working alongside local teachers to help young people cope during the covid crisis.

The organisation has provided equine assisted learning sessions to children and young adults through its Discovery Programme.

In the sessions with specially selected rescued horses, the young people develop the skills needed to build resilience, improve communication skills, find their confidence and self-belief, and as a result better cope with the challenges of life.

“Many of our students find comfort in routine and need predictability in their lives to feel confident and secure, so the sudden stopping of courses during the first lockdown was very difficult for them,” said Sharon Howell, Discovery Course Leader.

“Connecting with our horses can be a huge source of comfort and a calming influence for our students, so to have it taken away from them at a time when their anxiety and stress was probably at an all-time high was incredibly difficult for many of them.

“A huge source of support had been suddenly removed at the time they needed it the most.”

In the previous lockdown the programme had to be suspended, but has since been reinstated, helping its participants to cope with everyday life.

As soon as the first lockdown was lifted the Discovery team started planning and putting measures in place so that they could welcome students back once given the go-ahead.

“Hearing from our students about the impact that living during these troubling times is having on them is a huge reminder of how essential these courses are for the vulnerable children and young adults who come to us,” said Petra Ingram, HorseWorld’s Chief Executive.

“Our amazing rescued horses give students more than a reason to be calm, or manage their emotions, or improve their communication skills; for some of our young people they are the one constant in their lives.

“We literally are a port in a seemingly constant storm, and our horses are often the only anchor they can rely on.

“Discovery has brought about outstanding results when nothing else has worked for the individual or the group; our horses have shown us that they have the capacity to change lives and we are seeing the evidence almost every day.

“We are able to ignite a love of learning, nourish developing minds and give vulnerable children and young people hope for a brighter future.”

Desperate need

The charity now faces another challenge; how to deal with the huge increase in demand for the Discovery programme.

“We’ve experienced a massive rise in calls from education services, specialist provision units, and local authorities, all of which have children and young people in desperate need of the unique support and transformation our Discovery courses offer,” added Sharon.

“We are receiving urgent enquiries every day. The fact that demand for Discovery is at an all-time high is a sad indication that recent events have taken a huge toll on vulnerable children and young people, as well as a testament to the amazing work of our teams, and our wonderful horses.

“We would love to be able to help every young person who needs us, because we know these courses change lives, but we currently just don’t have the capacity to do more.