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Patrons: Martin Clunes and Lord Knight of Weymouth Registered Charity No. 1141654/1170553

Summary of programme delivery

Our flagship programme, the ReStart, is well-evidenced and underpins all of our work. Our facilitators also offer taster and top up sessions as needed.

The ReStart is usually delivered in 5 consecutive days, working for approx 2 hours per day with 1-to-1 facilitator support. We teach, rehearse and repeat key resilience skills in an intensive and challenging, but fun way with feedback in-the-moment from specially trained horses. There is no discussion of the past. All sessions take place in action with the horses, there is no classroom content or talk-based therapy/counselling.

Development of skills is embedded in work towards a horsemanship groundwork certificate. Tasks are guided by the facilitator and the horses are selected and trained to provide especially clear and easily observed physical feedback to participants, many of whom will not have interacted with horses prior to taking part in the programme. The methodological focus is on social/emotional shifts being made ‘in the moment’, in response to difficulties encountered. Participants are unmounted handlers, learning to work in partnership with the horses on the ground. The course employs an approach using a series of specific tasks as tools to develop positive habits. Specifically, the skills addressed by the course are:

Engagement (Confidence as a Learner) - enthusiastically taking on new challenges, pushing limits whilst also taking care of own confidence

Responsibility - taking responsibility for our own thoughts, emotions and actions

Calmness - having the habit of calmness and knowing how to create it in difficult situations

Assertiveness - able to be calmly assertive, without getting aggressive or upset

Realistic Analysis & Planning - Stopping to think before acting, making a realistic assessment of situations and planning accordingly

Focus & Perseverance - working towards goals despite setbacks

Relating to Others / Empathy - seeing the needs of others, offering care and support, feeling closely connected

Communication & Language - two way, respectful, assertive communcations, having language to talk about thinking and emotions

On the last day, each participant has a robust reflective session with their facilitator – looking at their progress in each of the areas of the Skills Star (below). Upon successful completion of the course, participants are presented with a certificate. 

A ten minute video submission for each participant is assessed by an independent facilitator. Participants receive a scoresheet and a brief report on their display of horsemanship. Participants receive their own copy of the filmed submission, and most are proud to share this with their family. 

The Highlight is a one day adaptation of the ReStart, in which a group of participants will get a taste of the skills above but will only have time to work in detail on one or two key areas. For less extreme or less entrenched behaviour, we are finding a single day can be enough to trigger the crucial shift. This day has also been reported as a way to dramatically improve the relationships between staff and service users, resulting in lower levels of conflict and improved engagement or progress with talk-based provision.

For a 'show and tell' of how the course works, see this album of captioned photos: HMYOI Portland.

To read a narrative blog about the teaching method, see this article: Parelli Central Blog: "Parelli Horses helping UK Prisoners".


In order to make the maximum impact on social exclusion, we are keen to disseminate our course content, notes and materials to other practitioners for their own use. 

Please feel free to download any materials you find here. In return, we ask that anyone using our materials acknowledge us, do not misrepresent their degree of training or connection with us and do not present our materials as their own. Courses may not be described as "TheHorseCourse" without our prior written consent.

For information on training programmes for instructors/practitioners. Please email to register your interest: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 'like' our Facebook page to ensure you hear about upcoming opportunities.

We would love to hear any feedback. Please post on facebook.com/thehorsecourse.


Referral / Outcomes / Feedback StarTheHorseCourse Star

The star shows the main areas we work on - at the centre of the star people are stuck in behaviours which are unhelpful. As they progress, they move outwards towards the points of the star. We assess progress by observation or in discussion with the participant - but always based on observations you have been able to make in session. By marking their level on each point you can join the marks and create 'before' and 'after' shapes. Examples can be seen in our photo gallery.

Each 'point' has associated horsemanship exercises/strategies we use to work on the desired outcome.

The star is marked up as part of the referral process, later as the basis for discussion of outcomes together with the participant and finally as part of the feedback to referrers.

View PDF.

Referral / Outcomes / Feedback Star The most important use of the star is as a way of discussing and reflecting on the course in the exit interview. We talk through each point, thinking about where the participant was at the beginning of the course and how far they got by the end. We reflect on specific moments that would 'evidence' these marks in session 1 and sessions 6 or 7. The marks are made by the instructor, following robust and realistic discussion. All the 'before' marks join up to make a shape as do the 'after' marks. The 'after' shape is always bigger, but each participant makes progress at a different rate. The one shown here is fairly typical.

There is then a handover - the participant keeps a copy of their star and takes responsibility for managing their own progress towards the edges. They learn that these skills are like muscles, if you don't work at them they disappear. We discuss how each skill has an impact on the way life works.

Generally participants are very proud and surprised by how much they have learnt, about themselves and about the skills of self management. They seem empowered by the star. We only started using it in 2012 - we are really pleased with it so far.

UK Prison oriented people may be interested in the correlation between the star points and the identified needs in OASys (Offender Assessment System). This version of the star shows the roughly corresponding sections. View PDF.

observation-chart-tnTheHorseCourse Observation Chart: created in-house with inspiration from Linda Parelli's work on "horsenality"; this tool was used by Dr Hemingway in a field study and is used as our primary case note tool and the basis of our Non-verbals Toolbox Trainings. This tool charts human behaviour on 2 axes: Fear to Dominance, and Still to Busy. Observing body language in oneself or others allows one to accurately assess  emotional states; and distinct non-verbal strategies can be employed to help people find the green areas of the chart which are pro-social and functional, and minimise time spent in amber or red areas which are less functional and/or anti-social.

Comfort ZoneComfort Zone

The comfort zone chart asks participants to map and reflect on their time during the course spent feeling comfortable (white), feeling confused (in the grey fog of learning) and the (golden) moments of learning. We also check whether there were any (red) terror moments. Participants can then reflect with us on the learning process.

The slider bars are to compare the participant's mental and emotional state within a task firstly when it was not working and then when it did work. They usually realise, when they see it in this visual format, that being calm and focused makes all the difference!

View PDF.


  • It is an intervention for the most difficult to engage

    Russ Trent, Governor, HMP & YOI Portland

  • I hope this work which I understand the PCT Commissioner has been impressed with, is able to continue

    Jeremy Wright, Minister for Prisons

  • TheHorseCourse has succeeded in getting through to some of the most difficult and disruptive Young Offenders...

    Lord Ramsbotham, former Chief Inspector of Her Majesty's Prisons

  • A new option which shows great promise to reduce exclusions and to reduce ongoing mental health issues.

    Kirsty Dring, Wellbeing Team Leader, All Saints School, Weymouth

  • THC has made significant impact - one student learnt she is able to succeed, another has doubled her time in lessons.

    Allan Wood, Headmaster, Compass Learning Centre (Pupil Referral Unit)

  • We are working in partnership with TheHorseCourse on a number of pilots including Rehab Services, Crisis Service and Acute Inpatient settings.

    Sarah Rose, Dorset Mental Health Forum

  • A uniquely powerful course for installing mental and emotional self control...I am excited to be a part of this project.

    Stephanie Gaunt, licensed 3* Parelli Professional Horsemanship Instructor

  • Students have to take control of the situation, be effective... that is huge.

    Tracey Hodder, Specialist Support Worker, Compass Learning Centre

  • We train our people by doing, but when things go wrong we try to fix them by talking. It doesn't make sense.

    Reverend Simon Beveridge, Royal Marines, Poole

  • Preliminary findings from the evaluation research are incredibly positive.

    Professor Rosie Meek, Criminal Psychology, Royal Holloway University

  • Engaging and motivating prisoners is notoriously difficult and yet TheHorseCourse has managed to do just that consistently and effectively.

    Lord Jim Knight of Weymouth (former Minister for Education)

  • I'm amazed by the work of Parelli practitioners such as Harriet Laurie... There is no-one horses cannot touch!

    Linda Parelli, Parelli Natural Horsemanship, USA

  • Seeing these kids getting a horse to do something for them simply by controlling their own moods is incredible.

    Martin Clunes (Actor, Presenter & President of The British Horse Society)

  • THC empowers prisoners as teachers and leaders of horses, rather than trying to further diminish them as pupils.

    Emily Bolton, Trustee, Solicitor, Founded the Innocence Project New Orleans

  • Society would benefit from this sort of intervention earlier, I would like to see it in primary schools.

    K Forrester, Trustee, School Teacher & Head of Year

  • It's great to see an intervention where there is such good evidence of effectiveness.

    Helen Price, Lead Commissioner for Families, Gloucestershire County Council

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