What is Discovery?
Discovery boosts the confidence, emotional well-being and life-chances of disadvantaged and vulnerable young people and adults through an innovative learning programme that brings them together with gentle rescued horses. This learning programme has seen results when nothing else has worked for the individual or group.
Every year Discovery works with over 200 children, young people and adults who are at risk of exclusion or who are experiencing life challenges due to their social, emotional, mental health and learning needs.
Our EthosDiscovery provides a safe, nurturing and welcoming environment, in which every young person feels valued, loved and respected as a unique individual. Discovery is a non-judgemental space where each and every child, young person, adult and horse are accepted; a place where they can belong and achieve.
Why use horses?
Our horses have been specially chosen for their calm nature, and bring about calmness in the young people, helping them to concentrate, communicate effectively and engage in their learning, all of which has a positive impact back in the classroom and at home.
Horses are non-judgemental, with no preconceived expectations or motives, which allows the young people to develop relationships based on mutual trust and respect. Just like our students each of our horses, most of which have been rescued by HorseWorld, has its own unique personality and qualities. They can be stubborn, fun, defiant, caring, anxious, impatient or loving.
Their sensitive nature means that horses are naturally inclined to mirror our behaviour. They can read our body language and instantly respond. This encourages the young people who come to us (many of whom already have a negative mindset) to discover how they can be calm, confident and open to the experiences the horses offer.
A horse can become fearful or agitated if a person is aggressive, noisy, or disrespectful; they are naturally a prey animal so are always looking to feel safe and find companionship and leadership. If a person makes requests rather than demands the horse is likely to begin to cooperate.
When the horses react to a young person’s actions, behaviour or approach they send a clear message which helps the student to assess their actions, reflect, and challenge the way that they handled the situation; an essential skill both for the Discovery course and for life in the wider world.
Working in an environment so different to the traditional classroom and structured school setting gives each pupil the opportunity to excel in a myriad of different ways. Being outdoors and learning from the horses gives the students a sense of responsibility, with rules that have clear purpose and consequences, and all contributes to producing unique and rewarding emotional connections.
Who do we work with?
At Discovery we work closely with schools, social care, the local hospital education services and specialist provision units. We are on both the two Bristol City and South Gloucestershire Councils’ Alternative Provision registers and work with many other local authorities
However, anyone can refer a student to the Discovery programme – please contact us to discuss the needs of any young person you think could benefit.
What can students learn through Discovery?
Discovery boosts confidence and self-esteem, supporting young people to discover skills they did not know they had and to see themselves as learners again, thereby improving life-chances. Discovery is set up so that young people will achieve.
Many young people who come to Discovery struggle in traditional learning environments and have ‘switched-off’, believing themselves not to be ‘good learners’. Discovery is a safe, non-judgemental space in which young people partner with horses who, by definition have no agendas or preconceptions.
All learning is adapted to each student and the experiential nature of the learning provides alternatives to the ‘pen and paper’ learning many of them have come to fear. From the start, learners gain a sense of achievement and they rise to the challenge of taking responsibility for themselves and the ponies. For many, this is the first time they have engaged in and enjoyed learning for a long time. This has an incredible impact, and raises their expectations of themselves.
At Discovery learners develop skills that are transferrable to many areas of their lives such as those of collaboration, concentration and leadership along with the ability to build positive relationships (with the horses, with each other and with staff members). Qualities such as confidence, reflection, empathy and calmness are also developed through working with horses. Discovery is based on a working farm that is home to the rescue charity, HorseWorld. This means that although Discovery is a small and nurturing learning environment, it is also a good introduction to the workplace and provides a chance to develop practical employability skills.
How does it work?
Discovery provides a safe, supervised, hands-on, learner-centred curriculum of activities. All learning is carefully structured and begins with ‘doing’. Each successive week builds on the skills learned in the previous week, at a pace suited to the individual learner. This allows for reflection on and development of skills over a period of time.
Over a course of sessions participants learn the basics of horse handling, care, training and riding. Each week builds on the skills learned previously, at the right pace for each learner.
But Discovery sessions are about so much more than learning how to care for a horse. Through these practical lessons and experiences participants also develop skills which are transferrable to many areas of their life.
They learn how to work in collaboration with other people; how to concentrate on a task; how to ask questions; how to solve problems; and how to build positive relationships (with the horses, with each other, and with staff members and volunteers.)
Discovery has been created to ensure that young people will achieve; a prospect that many have given up on. They are supported to discover skills they did not know they had, which ultimately boosts their confidence and self-esteem.
From the very first session learners gain a sense of achievement when they rise to the challenge of taking responsibility for themselves and the horse they’re working with. For many, this will be the first time they have engaged in learning for a long time.
Do you know anyone experiencing the daily challenges of coping with...
- Autism/communication difficulties?
- Learning difficulties?
- Emotional trauma/distress?
- Physical health problems?
- A ‘pushed-out’ learner who is disengaged?
- Low confidence and or self esteem?
Discovery could work for them. If you would like more information or want to discuss your learners needs please don’t hesitate to get in touch; email email@example.com or call 01275 893023.