Pupils at The Hope Wood Academyare taking the reins at Washington Riding Centre

Hope Wood Academy

Tuesday, 21st February 2017

Pupils at The Hope Wood Academyare taking the reins at Washington Riding Centre

A NEW equine therapy programme is helping give a leg up to students with special educational needs.

A NEW equine therapy programme is helping give a leg up to students with special educational needs.

Pupils at The Hope Wood Academy, Easington, a specialist school which supports learning for students aged two to 19 with severe and complex needs, are taking the reins at Washington Riding Centre with weekly lessons in horse riding and stable management.

Hope Wood Academy teacher Amy Naylor said: “The impact that the horses have on the children is incredible.

“Most of our pupils have never experienced a horse before let alone ridden one. Even the process of putting on a riding hat or being close to a horse has been a major achievement.

“For others just leaving the classroom is a massive accomplishment so to get into the saddle on their first visit, follow instructions from the handlers and communicate with new people has been amazing.”

Students have a range of specialist needs from moderate learning difficulties to autism, epilepsy and downs syndrome. The equine therapy has already shown benefits in sensory input, body and balance awareness, self regulation, building a sense of self worth, improving communications, building trust and self efficiency skills, developing socialisation skills and learning impulse control and emotional management.

“Some students who may be a bit distressed when we arrive at the stables are instantly calmed by the horses,” said Ms Naylor. “The children absolutely love it and the way that the therapy relaxes them really assists in other areas of the curriculum including preparing them for learning within the classroom.

“Some of our more physically able students have been helping with the grooming and mucking out and also learning about stable management from the staff here at the stables and two of our older students Steven Mitchell and Ben Ross have been given the role of assisting the younger pupils both on and off horseback.

“Our initial funding for the students’ therapy is only for ten weeks but already the benefits have proved so immense that we would love to make this a permanent activity for all pupils at Hope Wood Academy, so we will hopefully be looking at ways of raising additional funding for future sessions.”

Mum Sally Barber, whose son Nathaniel Sullivan, seven, has communications, autism and hyper mobility issues said: “Nathaniel finds it difficult to sit still most of the time but he loves being on a horse and the movement of it walking along really relaxes him.

“We don’t have any pets at home and he’s never really been near a horse before but he absolutely adores them and I couldn’t believe how quickly he has taken to riding.

“I’ve even noticed that he sleeps much better the day after a riding lesson and the therapy also helps him be much calmer and focused at school.”