TheHorseCourse has a novel and highly effective way of working with people who cannot cope with talk-based support for their mental health problems.

We proved our programme in prison with hard to reach, disruptive and disengaged violent young offenders: a recent report published by New Philanthropy Capital & CLINKS and peer reviewed by MoJ, found that our ReStart programme reduced reoffending by 27% points. We are now working with a diverse range of populations. At our centre in Dorset we change the lives of over 140 very troubled people each year. We work by referral only, from schools, PRUS, Childrens Services, NHS Mental Health Services, Offending Services and specialist 3rd sector organisations (e.g. domestic violence and drug/alcohol support).

The investment from Peter Cruddas Foundation will help us to continue to deliver services and evaluate robustly; to develop sustainable income streams; and to replicate nationally. We have 11 approved facilitators so far and over a dozen part-trained.

ReStart programme

Our ReStart programme is a horsemanship-based course for people who are ‘stuck’ or disengaged from talk-based provision, and are struggling with multiple, serious barriers to reaching their potential. We provide an effective action-based alternative to Counselling, Behaviour Programmes or Therapy – developing core skills of self control, and communication in a challenging but fun way – through rehearsal and repetition, not talking, with feedback from specially trained horses.

We have a 99.5% engagement record where Children’s services expected 35%. No knowledge or love of horses is required, and we have great outcome evidence, including: 85% of youth participants improve at school post course (and the evidence shows that the improvements are lasting). 55% of referrers strongly attribute this to TheHorseCourse, hence high demand for our service.

What happens after: for most participants the ReStart is enough to get them re-engaged with mainstream education, feeling more positive and with the skills to better manage themselves. Some need counselling/psychotherapy, but previously were unable to cope with it (e.g. Domestic Violence therapists at Waves, Weymouth report that we cut their typical support from 4 months to 1-2 months and engage those who were completely shut down); we offer top up sessions for any who need it.

The 5 day course, with 1-to-1 facilitator support, builds 8 key skills: Engagement, Calmness, Assertiveness, Focus & Perseverance, Empathy, Realistic Planning, Communication, Responsibility – These skills are known to lead to improved attendance and engagement at school as well as greater resilience and mental health long term.

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