25% of the income raised in the 2022 event will go towards the Horses4Health Families Fund which began in 2021. This new initiative aims to support families of disadvantaged young people, utilising a holistic approach to bring about positive change through horses. It will be based on the HorseWorld Discovery programme, and a pilot scheme ran during the summer in 2021, but once externally evaluated, if there are sufficient funds, it will be rolled out across the UK by working together with other charities who deliver equine assisted programmes to young people.
In the past 18 months, HorseWorld have experienced a considerable increase in the demand of young people being referred to their Discovery programme through the local authority. HorseWorld is a registered part-time alternative learning provider for young people excluded or at risk of exclusion from school, an intervention set up in 2008.
There is much evidence to suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly increased the pressures on families, and where there are already young people struggling with day-to-day life, these situations have been made far worse. Here are some examples of the feedback received:
‘’Covid has left us feeling trapped and alone with nothing to look forward to’’ (Young Person)
‘’I suddenly feel nervous when I am around other people, I have lost all my confidence’’ (Young Person)
‘’We have just felt so isolated and have had nothing to look forward to all, we have done is argue, this feeling of being isolated seemed never ending’’ (Parent)
In a discussion about the potential opportunity of this Families Fund, one Referrer said: “The focus for L and her family whilst at Discovery is to raise her mood and help them to feel a sense of happiness and well-being, which hopefully they can then carry forward into other areas of life and therefore increase life chances and mental health. Things at home have just been so much more intense during Covid.”
The Families Fund will be a shortened version of the long-established HorseWorld Discovery programme aimed at disadvantaged young people and families who would benefit from spending time with each other, helping them to deal with daily stresses and working to improve their well-being. By working together with the rescued horses, they will learn how horses can have a positive influence on their mental health.
This will help develop their communication skills and contribute towards building positive and respectful relationships with each other using horses as a learning partner. Adults can be involved in the learning process of their children; they will be encouraged to participate themselves and demonstrate the importance of leading by example.
HorseWorld Discovery supports the learning process of young people who are excluded from or at risk of exclusion from school. Through positive engagement with horses, they learn many important life skills. In creating the Families Fund, we recognise the importance of the family unit surrounding the young person and hope that this fund can enable a more holistic approach to creating positive changes.
Horses 4 Health founder, Sophie Gifford said: “As we emerge during this year, by working together with others, we have an enormous potential to make a positive impact on the lives of many people, only possible because of the Great Horses for Health Relay. It is very exciting to be creating something completely new based on the positive impact horses can have on human health, a future legacy of this innovative volunteer-led event.”
Q Aims - what is the Families Fund trying to achieve?
A There are three core aims of the Horses4Health Families Fund:
Build positive relationships
Develop communication skills
Q Target audience – who would be invited to attend?
A Initially we would use a survey monkey tool to target current service users and ask current users if they thought they would benefit. We are already in discussions with family support networks like Families in Focus to ask for their feedback and input. All families should be recognised as vulnerable or disadvantaged within society to qualify for attending.
We would embrace diversity and welcome applications from any family size with participants over six years old and physically mobile to ensure safety. We would consider all blended families with a maximum of six participants including parents, carers, grandparents, and siblings depending on the dynamics.
Q Selection – how would you select participants?
A We would select from those families that have been identified as benefiting from extra support by another authority e.g. school, CAMHS, Local Authority, support workers etc. We would use support from the Families in Focus group to ensure a fair and transparent selection process. It is important for us to be clear on the expectations of the programme, providing definition and clarity upfront on the experience to be had and what the family would be involved with in during the course.
Q Format – how would the course be structured?
A It would be a basic handling syllabus modified for a 2.5-hour session, with 1 session at a time to run AM or PM. This would be a maximum of 10 sessions each week, over a three-week period, which may be spread over six-weeks depending on availability of facilitators and horses.
It is proposed we establish two formats of trial sessions with families, some to have one session and some to have two sessions to compare benefits. The current thinking is that Part 1 is about “Learn and gain” and Part 2 focuses on “learning and reflection”. We would take guidance, but potentially 30 sessions could accommodate 20 families, 10 taking part in one session and 10 taking part in two sessions.
We plan to run these over the summer holidays, ensuring sufficient time for both staff and horses to have their holidays before term time starts again.
Q Outcomes – what would success look like?
A The programme will build resilience, improve communication and problem-solving skills, inspire confidence and self-belief, developing coping mechanisms and respectful relationships. We expect to see an enjoyable and bonding experience that has had a positive impact on the family’s relationship, improving well-being of those involved.
We would design the programme with evaluation in mind, it is proposed we use support from Bournemouth University who undertook an external evaluation of Discovery last year. We expect feedback would be through questionnaires, in addition to some pre-assessment questions. This would enable us to learn and scale up should further funds be available.
Q Scale up – if fundraising were successful, how would we scale up?
A We could expand this model via grants to other organisations who already have an equine assisted intervention with young people in place. We would issue clear guidelines on how to implement and provide support to facilitators who have the right skills and experience.
We could add family focused sessions to our Discovery project full time and over school holidays maybe evenings in the summer and or weekends. Other options could include classes for parents or siblings, perhaps extending to sessions for carers in the future.
Q Vision – what would you like to have achieved in, say five years?
A A full-time family focused project that supports families for various reasons. We would be able to support and signpost to other family service partners. There is a significant potential to use this project as a working model and roll out across other organisations to reach different areas of the UK.
And lots of happy families and happy rescued horses, all having the second chance of a happy life!!