Equestrian Experiences

Up to 40 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.

Children with additional needs/ deprivation issues (Mainstream Schools)

Our Projects for children with additional needs 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. We work alongside the schools to provide bespoke projects to the specific needs of the pupils and to provide activities which will deliver key objectives. 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. All pupils are presented with a Rosette at the end of the Project.

Disadvantaged young people (attending other Charity Education Departments)

Riding for Smiles provides Project sessions for young people attending a recognised Charity education department. This Charity offers programmes of education, personal development and outdoor activities to help young people improve their lives and succeed and Riding for Smiles offers riding as one of the outdoor activities. These  young people face a number of difficulties, such as not having a place in mainstream education, being at risk of exclusion, are in care, or are young carers, have just arrived in the country and have learning difficulties or behavioural issues. Our sessions allow these children the opportunity to try something new and challenging and gain self-esteem and confidence by achieving. Sessions encourage team work and interpersonal skills, positive social interaction and resilience. Pupils attend for 1 hour sessions per week for a period of 6 weeks and take part in a ride or carriage ride and equestrian based activities. Sessions are based around the needs of the individuals and group and include riding lessons or ridden games for those who are eager to learn a new skill and benefit from facing a challenge, or a hack for those who are more in need of time to chill.

Children with complex needs (Special Schools)

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 (usually Animal Care Course). 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 practical part of the Animal Care course 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.

Children and young people with additional needs (Disability Sports Clubs)

Riding for Smiles offers recreational sessions for children and young people with additional needs through Disability Sports Clubs. These sessions take place in the evenings during the Spring and Summer and offer an inclusive, exciting animal contact session. The users take part in a ride, or carriage ride, and “hands on” activity in a relaxed atmosphere. The main focus of these sessions is simply having fun and enjoying being part of a group, although development of confidence, physical, social and language skills are always part of the desired outcomes.

Adults with mental health issues/mental illness (Linked to the charity MIND)

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”.


We are delighted that a grant from Sport England has allowed us to purchase a wheel chair friendly horse drawn carriage.

The carriage will accommodate two wheel chair users and their carers along with the carriage driver and groom.

The carriage will be available for booking from Easter 2021.

To book a ride for a wheelchair user and carer, contact Stephanie on info@ridingforsmiles.org or use the Contact form on the top menu.

Mental Health Project

We have two groups of pupils from Juniors schools taking part in our Mental Health Project.

This project, funded by the Lottery Community Grant 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.