Milton Keynes horse-based charity Ride High is celebrating five years of changing the lives of the city’s disadvantaged young people.
Ride High teaches children to care for horses, and thereby builds up their sometimes shattered self esteem – and by giving them routes to education and work experience.
Many of the children and young people who have been through the stable doors at Ride High since it started in 2009 are from hugely disadvantaged backgrounds.
Some of the children, aged eight to 18 have been suicidal, seriously self harming, caring for a parent or siblings, in foster care or living in environments dominated by poverty, alcohol, drugs or parental ill health. Childcare professionals refer the young people to Ride High, where they stay for up to two years.
Ride High, which started with six children in 2009, now helps 100 children a week and boasts the BBC’s Jeremy Vine as its patron.
Charity founder Rachel Medill said: “I had a very difficult time in my early life – my mother was diagnosed as being terminally ill and my dad was working all the time – a white pony called Miskish was the one thing that made my life bearable. I would just be with him in the stable and somehow it just made things better. I always knew that horses could help change lives and the last five years have seen that dream come true for over 400 children.”
Gabby, who was 16 when she was referred to Ride High by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health department at Milton Keynes Hospital said: “I had hardly been in school due to exhaustion, stress and anxiety. The hospital referred me to Ride High so I could begin to exercise under controlled conditions that would not be damaging to my health, and to allow me to gain confidence outside the stress of school and effort of recovery.
“I’m now 18 months on and my life has changed. The horses are a wonderful comfort. You see things from a different perspective on a horse’s back.” This year Gabby is applying for university. She’s also a Ride High volunteer.
Ride High has grown since 2009, supported by businesses and and organisations including John Lewis MK, Sainsbury’s MK, Sysmex UK, MacIntyre Hudson, Steven Eagell Toyota, Adelie Foods, MK Community Foundation and Sport Relief.