A community project is helping youngsters to thrive by allowing them to spend time with horses and learn new skills.

The scheme, based at Stepney Bank Stables, recently received a welcome cash boost, allowing some 50 young volunteers to complete their equestrian training. The £6,400 donation came from the North of Tyne Combined Authority and members of the Ouseburn community.

The project provides local teenagers with the chance to care for and ride horses, helping to increase their confidence and self-esteem, as well as boosting their health and wellbeing.

Eva, 12, and Sarah, 14, (pictured top) completed their training earlier this month, after encouragement from their respective grandparents. The girls have become firm friends as a result. “It was really good”, they said together, when asked about their experience.

“We operate an open-door policy,” said Stables Manager, Sara Newson (pictured below). “We get young people, from all walks of life, come together through a shared interest, creating unusual – and often lasting – friendships. The social mixing is a vital part of their learning.”

Among the range of young people who volunteer at Stepney Bank are children who have struggled to remain in mainstream education but for whom the stables – which has its own youth worker, Katherine – serves as a sanctuary.

“They have to survive out there, but they can be themselves in here”, said Sara.

For Stepney Bank staff, the positive impact that spending time with horses can have on youngsters – particularly those who might struggle to communicate with others – is clear. In recent years mental health professionals have shown increased interest in working with and caring for horses as a form of therapy and support.

“We know from experience that being around horses can be a fantastic intervention for young people – especially those suffering from anxiety or with neurodiverse conditions that can affect communication skills,” Sara said.

The training at Stepney Bank also helps strengthen adolescents’ employment prospects – giving them structure and teaching them skills like time management. For teenagers like Jess Ribton, 16, it gave her an opportunity to start mentoring more junior riders.

“You help younger kids who are less confident”, she said. “You watch people grow and develop around horses.”

The funding from the NTCA’s crowdfunding scheme has come at a critical time for the stables, which has been a feature of Ouseburn’s community for almost 25 years.

“We were really struggling”, Sara said. “Costs have shot up”.

Elected Mayor for the North of Tyne, Jamie Driscoll, recently visited the stables.

“Stepney Bank is clearly a special place, he said. “It’s a stables, of course, but it’s really all about the kids – their lives, their futures. Somewhere young people can be themselves, learn and share new skills, and form lasting friendships. Somewhere they feel safe.

“I’m so glad we could contribute some cash to support Sara, her team, and the invaluable work they’re doing here.”

For more information about Stepney Bank Stables, visit stepneybank.co.uk

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