The New Human Equine Interaction Register (HEIR) Recognises Charity HorseWorld’s Innovative Discovery Programme


HorseWorld’s Discovery Programme has been included onto the new “Human Equine Interaction Register” which has been set up to recognise all the UK organisations providing an excellent standard of programme supporting people through interaction with equines.

For seventy years, HorseWorld have been rescuing neglected, abandoned and malnourished equines in a state of need and has provided a safe home for them at their Whitchurch Farm near Bristol.

HorseWorld Discovery was formed In 2007, a programme which gives back to the community that has helped support the charity's work. Discovery takes young people faced with life challenges due to their social, emotional, mental health and learning needs and helps them to rebuild lives that may have been affected by trauma or neglect through working with gentle rescued HorseWorld horses.

Every year HorseWorld’s Discovery Programme connects around 200 children and young people, ages 5 – 25, who are struggling in mainstream education, with carefully selected and rehabilitated gentle rescue horses. Bringing together the rescued equines with young people who have their own struggles, in practical outdoor tasks has a positive outcome on human and equine.

Working alongside rescued horses in an outdoor environment gives young people an opportunity to excel in a way they haven’t been able to do so in a structured school setting. Through individually tailored activities, students develop their confidence, communication skills and self-esteem. The horses provide a unique learning tool based on trust, understanding and kindness that promotes personal development and supports emotional growth.

“Thank you, Discovery, for giving me the confidence to talk to others”.

“I suddenly found myself being able to communicate with people. I found joy in things again and, most importantly, I found I suddenly had a feeling of hope for the future”.

“Before Discovery I couldn’t leave the house. I didn’t know what to do”.

Incredibly, many Discovery students re-enter mainstream education, take exams, and go on to achieve vocational qualifications and secure full-time employment. Discovery reignites a love of learning and gives vulnerable children hope for a better future. Now, more than a decade later, it continues to grow.

One Senior Facilitator, Sarah Payton, has been participating in the program for twelve years in total, four as a volunteer followed by eight as a facilitator.


Sarah said ”Every Discovery course is unique because we tailor our activities to the needs of the individual young people who are referred to us. That means that no day at Discovery is ever the same. Central to the programme, are the relationships built between the young people and our wonderful horses, our job is to facilitate the building of those trusting relationships through carefully designed activities. Some of our rescued horses have been through a lot in their early life and many of the young people who come to Discovery identify with them and see parallels with their own challenges. I never tire of seeing these incredible bonds develop and seeing how students the grow in self-confidence and have a real sense of achievement and increased joy by the end of the 6-week course. “

Chief Executive Petra Ingram said “It is testament to the amazing work of our Discovery team over the past 14 years that we have been accepted onto this new register. We know that Discovery is nothing less than transformational for our students, but to have this validated and be officially recognised as providing an excellent standard of support through interactions with our rescued equines is fantastic. Joining the register is a springboard from which we can continue to develop the programme for the young people we support, grow our expertise, secure future funding and ensure our wonderful rescued equines continue to thrive in their roles."

The success of HorseWorld’s Discovery programme has come at a time when Equine Assisted Learning courses are being recognised across the country as a useful intervention for those with certain needs. HorseWorld’s entry to the HEIR register secures the future of this innovative programme.

Article by: Sara Rutherford

Posted on: 24th June 2022