Group 1: M……. was very quiet and nervous around the horses at first, but over the last few weeks has really come out of herself and gained confidence. She loved brushing and walking Velvet and having the ‘smaller’ horse really helped her. She was always very excited after sessions and wanted to share with her class and staff everything she had done which has been really good for her communication skills. A…. was very nervous at first, but was very excited to go each session and very talkative on her return to school. We have seen a real increase in her confidence, especially talking with less familiar staff. A…. was really persevering with tasks at the last session, where she gave up very easily to start with. A…. was ill unfortunately and only attended a couple of sessions. He was nervous at first, but then really started to engage with the tasks and the horses. He was much more confident towards the end of the sessions and has benefitted from using the breathing techniques and is a lot calmer. Y……would not go in the paddock on the first session and chose just to watch. By the final session it was hard to get him to leave and come out of the paddock! As the sessions continued, he engaged with unfamiliar staff, which he wouldn’t do at first and became much more talkative and confident. He enjoys anything to do with animals and was always excited to share what he had done when he returned to school. H…… as a year 7 is new to the school and didn’t know any of the other students and was quite shy of them as they are all bigger than him! He grew in confidence throughout the sessions and by the end of them was confident in supporting and encouraging some of the older students. He was very excited and asked more and more questions as the weeks went on, developing his functional communication skills. The first session J attended he wanted his one to one staff with him all the time, by the end of the sessions they had been able to step back and he was accessing the sessions independently. He also spoke to unfamiliar staff and this is a really big challenge for him that he has overcome. He started leading the horses on a longer lead which worked brilliantly for him – thank you for supporting him to do this! Group 2: We have seen an improvement in P…….s ability to wait and turn take. He is more accepting of not always being able to go first or be the first one picked. We have seen his movement as slower and calmer in some situations (particularly in moving around the school at break or lunchtimes) rather than always being in a rush – he has also waited better for staff attention. R… has seemed to grow in confidence over the last few weeks. When asked a question by staff, he is more forthcoming when speaking and also speaking in a calmer, slightly louder voice. He also seems to be less anxious on horse therapy days – his breathing is slower and his movement more relaxed. S has found horse therapy to be a very uplifting experience. When he returns to school he is so excited and desperate to tell everyone what he has been doing. It is wonderful to see him so animated and wanting to talk as he usually struggles with communication. It has been a very positive experience for him. Horse therapy has been a great experience for Z… he has never been close to a horse before. He seems much more settled and confident this year and always wants to talk about his experiences with the horses, where he is usually very quiet. He has really enjoyed leading the horses around the field. J……. has been really talkative about her experiences in horse therapy, where she is normally more reserved in her conversation. She really looked forward to her sessions and she gained confidence in going with unfamiliar staff to an unknown location which is something she has always found difficult.  L…. was always very quiet travelling to the horse therapy sessions but very bubbly and wanting to talk about her experiences on the way back. Staff saw an increase in her confidence and willingness to communicate. She also grew in confidence throughout the sessions becoming much more willing to engage as time went on.

Luton Secondary School - SENCO

CANter Equine Assisted Learning and Psychotherapy

Six of our pupils with a wide range of needs attended the six week programme held last Autumn. All of the pupils lacked confidence and had low self esteem and came from a variety of backgrounds including looked after and post looked after settings.

To see them grow and develop in confidence was a joy. Some pupils went from being very reluctant to take part to leading the groups and encouraging others by the end of the course. One of our pupils began by being absolutely terrified of having any contact with the horses at all to forming a strong bond with one particular therapy horse and coaching others in how to handle him. From a teacher’s perspective to see your pupils empowered to voice their innermost feelings, concerns and opinions was truly moving.

All of the above is a testament to the quality of the therapy and the commitment of the leaders Suzanne and Denise. The sessions are well structured with clear aims, giving pupils time to problem solve and reflect on what they had learned. We are all truly thankful to Suzanne, Denise and the generosity of Lottery Community Funding for making this possible.

Quotes from parents/carers and TAs

‘He has enjoyed it so much that he wants a framed picture of Woody by his bed. To see his self confidence and belief grow has been incredible.’

‘He has really developed his communication skills and become less of a stroppy teenager!’

‘The horses have enabled him to have some difficult conversations with us - things that he has never opened up about before’

‘She is such a quiet girl really afraid to talk to people but to see her open up and take the lead in some of the activities is incredible.’

How I felt: At the start I felt excited because we were going to see the horses. When we met the horses I was a bit nervous. When we were building a house I was happy. When we left I was a bit sad because I liked the horses but I’m excited for next week.

By Riley

Then the horses stayed in the house and we stroked the horses on the head. It made me feel calm and relaxed.

By William B

We met the horses and we talked about respect and where we feel respected. A lot of us said home, so we built a house out of stuff.

By William

We also did a breathing exercise and after that we went to say hello to the horses. I felt nervous because I didn’t want them to bite me or kick me. First we said hello to Woody then Tanner we said hello Lilibet we stroked them but Woody didn’t like being touched for some reason.

By Isabelle

We built a house using boxes and poles. I led a horse into our house. I’m very excited about seeing them next week.

By Ben

Before we met the horses, I felt excited and happy. Once I got there and met the horses I felt calm, relaxed and sad because I wanted to see them again. Whilst I was building a house for the horses, I felt very creative and happy that the horses liked it.

I loved the meditation and calming activities that we did with the ladies and the horses. Finally it was time to go back to school however I was sad as I did not want to leave. But we are seeing them again this Friday.

By Daniel

I manage an autism provision, linked to a mainstream school. We have a small number of children within our provision, all of whom have a varying academic ability but all significantly affected by their autism. We were thrilled to get the opportunity to bring 7 of the children for a block of equine therapy. Due to the 3rd lockdown, we have not yet been able to complete our sessions. However, the benefits that have already been observed after just 3 sessions is phenomenal and we can’t wait to get back to finish them.

Our children can often struggle with social interactions. This can include finding it difficult to communicate effectively with their peers, to work collaboratively, to share and to express themselves and can find new experiences outside of their normal routine, quite overwhelming. They can often also find it difficult to achieve things independently of their familiar adults.

The equine therapy sessions so far have been utterly amazing in addressing these challenges. The children did not know what to expect, and most were nervous about being around horses. They were also anxious as for most of them, they had not been on our school minibus before or been on a trip with us and so it was a big challenge, away from their normal routine. We prepared them for this by showing them photos of the horses beforehand and providing reassurance.

From the moment we got there, it could not have gone better. Suzanne and Denise instantly made the children feel relaxed and at ease. By the end of the first session, by using their extensive knowledge, experience and expertise, alongside the wonderful horses, they had worked miracles! They had been able to support the children in completing things successfully that they normally can struggle with. They enabled the children to talk about how they felt both before and after the session, they had enabled them to work collaboratively to build the horses a shelter - having to plan and work together, and had enabled the children to talk actively and with enthusiasm about what they had done. I can’t stress enough how impressed we were with their collaborative working and how much they could recount when we got back.

Above all – they had done all of this without us! Despite never having met the children before, Suzanne and Denise were able to support them in completing activities, getting them to talk, to be independent, to engage, to succeed - and all without the normal support that they are used to.

As each session has gone on, the children’s ability to work together co-operatively, to discuss and to recount what they have done (always with enthusiasm), to do things independently of us and to be able to talk honestly about their feelings, has grown impressively. These are not skills which always come easily and we have been so proud and thrilled to watch their progress. Long may it continue, it’s invaluable! Thank you so much- the difference this is making is immeasurable.

H Dunnigan Arnold Academy, January 2021

Arnold Academy - Equine Therapy Impact, Arnold Academy ASC Provision


A member of staff could see the confidence improving with the whole group.

I am more confident.

It was fun, it made me happy

I don't want it to end. I love horses x

Thank you, I have learnt about peoples spaces