Since September 2008, Milton Keynes charity Ride High has been giving disadvantaged children the opportunity to ride and look after horses, writes May Bulman.
Evidence has shown that contact with horses can have beneficial effects on children who are angry, lonely or underprivileged.
The charity aims to reach out to these youngsters and encourage them to absorb the new challenge of learning to ride and caring for the animals.
Indeed, the children who attend Ride High progress in leaps and bounds – and not only in their riding.
One child, 14, says: “I have learnt my left from my right here,” while another child, who suffers with severe behavioural problems, asked a member of staff, “can I do work experience here one day?”
Founder of the charity, Rachel Medill, was inspired to set up the organisation after visiting the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, which reaches out to disadvantaged children in the London area.
“It quickly became apparent that with Milton Keynes’ growing population and its pockets of deprivation there was a significant number of children who could benefit from such a charity,” she said
There are currently 70 children at Ride High, of whom the majority are child carers, young victims of abuse or children with behavioural issues.
They spend two hours a week at the stables, where they receive lessons on how to ride and care for horses, as well as the chance to partake in group activities and equestrian-related trips throughout the year.
Last Friday, Ride High took a group of children to Newmarket, where they visited the British Racing School before going to the races.
“Learning about the Apprenticeship Scheme at the school inspired a lot of the kids about their futures,” said Kim Cole, club room leader.
“And things got really exciting at the races, where they were treated like VIPs and served tea and scones!”
Children are usually referred to Ride High by schools or social workers. “We aim to build their self-esteem in order to improve their future prospects,” added spokesman Hayley Mackenzie-Wright.