Equestrian Experiences

Between 45 and 65 children and young people come along to Riding for Smiles each week during school term time in groups of four to eight. They follow a structured series of sessions designed to meet their needs over a period of six to twelve weeks.

Individuals and adult groups come along throughout the year. They follow paths designed to meet their needs and aspirations.

Our sessions and activities provide enjoyable, enrichment experiences and recreational opportunities which develop confidence and self-esteem, self- regulation, positive social interaction, motivation, calmness, thoughtfulness, resilience and provide physical exercise.

Each series is designed by our Special Educational Needs professional in partnership with the school or group to meet the needs of the group. Our Special Educational Needs professional continues to take part and observe each session before writing a detailed report on the progress of the group and the benefits obtained.

Each session will include horse riding or carriage riding and horse and stable management; grooming, learning about and cleaning tack, filling hay nets and water containers, poo-picking etc.

For more details please scroll down.

Programme 1 – Mental Health Programme

Children and Young People with additional needs / mental health issues 

The mental health project included an initial period of research and development to help the detailed planning. The project requires very careful selection of the children and a detailed assessment of their starting point and final their exit point.

This project allows children to attend sessions for a longer period of time in order to address their issues and allow for development.

Children taking part are identified by schools / CAMHS as having specific mental health issues and the aim of the Project is to address these issues and help prevent them escalating. The Project has been carefully planned out by our SEN professional and Derbyshire Head teachers.

A first paper on the research and development of the mental health project can be downloaded from       RfS MHP FINAL DRAFT

Programme 2 – Deprivation

Children and Young People with additional needs/ deprivation issues 

This Project provides a unique opportunity for using the alternative approach of equestrian based activities to deliver many vital social and life skills. Many of these children are from deprived backgrounds and have limited access to recreational activities. Our projects extend their horizons and offer a wide range of learning opportunities.  The main aims of these projects are to extend language and communication skills, develop physical and social skills, increase self-confidence / self-esteem and a positive mind set and foster behaviour self-regulation. Groups of children attend sessions for between 6 and 12 weeks and attend for 1 hour per week. Session activities include a ride, which can be a hack, lesson or mounted games, and an equestrian based activity such as grooming or cleaning a stable.

Programme 3 – SEND Schools

Children and Young People with complex needs 

These Projects provide a variety of outcomes for the pupils, including a therapeutic recreational activity linked to physical or social development or as part of a specific course being studied at school. Our Project Liaison Officer plans the Project with the school to ensure all needs of the pupils are met and activities provide the opportunity to deliver specific outcomes. The sessions usually centre on building the pupil’s confidence and willingness to try something new and to socially interact and work together. Pupils’ practise team work, sharing equipment and turn taking as well as talking about what they have done. As part of the p they learn about the dangers around horses, how to groom safely, to identify the names of brushes and stable equipment, how to fill hay nets and how to use a wheel barrow. Each session lasts for 1 hour per week and Projects are usually between 6 and 12 weeks. Pupils take part in a ride and a “hands on “activity each session and are presented with a Rosette at the end of the Project.

Programme 4 – Adults with mental health issues/mental illness 

Riding for Smiles offers sessions to adults from the local area who have a mental illness or poor mental health. Our Projects follow on from a successful joint Project with the Charity MIND which we ran as part of their “Get Set To Go” initiative. This upholds the belief that there is a strong connection between physical/sporting activity and well-being. These Projects provide an animal based therapeutic, social, physical and recreational activity and support group aimed at developing social/emotional, resilience and core life skills, which enable the users to integrate into society. Sessions offer the users a ride or carriage ride into the scenic countryside, followed by a” hands on” activity, designed to increase physical exercise and social interaction. The session finishes with a drink/chat time where users offer peer support to each other and build friendships. The success of these Projects has been immense, with the users stating the sessions are the “highlight of their week”.