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Evidence Base

Numerous external studies and evaluations of TheHorseCourse method shows that we have huge impact on measurable outcomes for both young people and adults, making us world leaders in the field of action-based interventions. See below for published studies, videos, and presentations of hard data, efficacy, bio-phys, service user perspectives, and more.

We are extremely research-friendly. Please get in touch if you are a researcher connected with an academic institution, looking for an interesting project.

“TheHorseCourse exemplifies the right attitude and approach towards collecting and analysing data in order to test and demonstrate impact, as well as develop practice responsively.” James Noble, Associate Director of Data and Learning, New Philanthropy Capital

Papers and Studies (chronological)

Evidence to date 2022

1 page summary
Evidence summary

A one page summary of the research to date by external academics and other experts, including papers in international peer-reviewed academic journals and presentations at international conferences.

M&E Protocol

In-house monitoring & evaluation
TheHorseCourse Star

We have a standard M&E protocol for all our ReStart participants, with over 1000 ReStarts delivered to date. We use TheHorseCourse Skills Star to track the distance travelled in the eight areas we work on directly during the course. We collect data at 3 time points:

  • Professional referrer pre-intervention
  • During a reflective session between participant and facilitator at the end of the intervention
  • Professional referrer 2 months post-intervention

We also follow up at 2 months post regarding 4 intermediate outcomes: 

  1. improved attendance and engagement with school/training/work
  2. improved relationships
  3. reduced problem behaviours 
  4. greater self belief

Data generated is shared with academics for analysis, eg. see Call to Action 2017 and RCT Feasibility below. Validation of the Star is also described in the Call to Action 2017.

Domestic Abuse 2022

Scientific journal paper

Hemingway, A., & Sullivan, K. (2022).  Family Process, 61, 549–570.

"Reducing the incidence of domestic violence: An observational study of an equine-assisted intervention"

A large scale, controlled study of TheHorseCourse impact with Troubled Families.

  • Pre and 12-months Post measures across 3 different approaches plus a control group
  • TheHorseCourse had the largest proportional decrease in DVA flags, down by 51% 12 months post-intervention, whereas the control group had a 17% increase. Statistically significant results p<0.05

View a single page summary findings, a conference presentation, or the full journal paper

Virtual reality 2021

Conference presentation

Harriet Laurie, TheHorseCourse & Professor Ann Hemingway, Bournemouth University.

"A proposed study to shift TheHorseCourse proven equine-assisted intervention to a VR platform for large-scale reach 2021"

Abstract and presentation, as delivered orally for HETI (Horses in Education & Therapy International) 2021 Congress, Seoul, Korea. This outlines the pilot in progress, testing EEG and other wearable psycho-physiology technology as the potential feedback loop for a future Neuro-Virtual Reality system to replicate TheHorseCourse in a virtual world for massive scale reach.

Watch a 3 minute video explaining the project in layman's terms and showing the research team in action at TheHorseCourse.

View the 1pp PDF abstract

Open the 9pp powerpoint presentation (PDF)

View the 15 minute presentation as a video

Domestic Abuse 2020

1 page findings

Bournemouth University, Dorset Council, TheHorseCourse

"Summary findings: the impact of Dorset Families Matter and TheHorseCourse on domestic violence and abuse in Dorset’s Troubled Families"

  • Pre and 12-months Post measures across 3 different approaches plus a control group
  • TheHorseCourse had the largest proportional decrease in DVA flags, down by 51% 12 months post-intervention, whereas the control group had a 17% increase. Statistically significant results p<0.05
  • Full study published in "Family Process" (see above)

Qualitative Study 2020

PhD Thesis
Canterbury Christ Church University logo

Seaman-Thornton, F. DClinPsych Thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University Salomons Institute for Applied Psychology

"Exploring change processes in an equine-assisted intervention" 

A qualitative study exploring perceptions in order to develop a grounded theory of change processes.

See pdf pages 82-93/154 for quotes and discussion of TheHorseCourse process from the perspectives of young people, parents, professional referrers and our facilitators.

Hierarchy of evidence 2020

Zoom video of The hierarchy of evidence and equine assisted interventions

Professor Ann Hemingway, Bournemouth University

"The hierarchy of evidence and equine assisted interventions... TheHorseCourse 2020"

Explaining how, from 2010 to 2020 TheHorseCourse has developed an evidence base progressing up the scientific hierarchy .

RCT Feasibility 2019

Scientific journal paper

Hemingway, A. J 2019, 2(2), 236-246.

"A Study Exploring the Implementation of an Equine Assisted Intervention for Young People with Mental Health and Behavioural Issues 2019"

A feasibility study exploring the potential of TheHorseCourse reStart as an appropriate subject for a gold-standard RCT clinical study. Includes some cost benefit indicators.

Bio-Physiology 2019

Scientific journal paper

Hemingway, A.; Carter, S.; Callaway, A.; Kavanagh, E.; Ellis, S. Animals 2019, 9, 303

"An Exploration of the Mechanism of Action of an Equine-Assisted Intervention 2019"

A bio-physiology study investigating the emotional learning journey during TheHorseCourse ReStart, published in a high impact international journal.

Qualitative study 2019

PhD thesis

Watson, S. 2019. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology

"A qualitative study exploring how parents make sense of change in an equine assisted intervention for their child: TheHorseCourse"

See pdf pages 59 – 73/109 for quotes and insights into the journey of change for young people, described by parents witnessing TheHorseCourse ReStart programme in action.

Efficacy Study 2018

Conference presentation

Dr N Kosky, The Royal College of Psychiatrists General Adult Psychiatry Annual Conference 2018

"TheHorseCourse ‘ReStart’ – examination of an initial data set"

Award-winning poster presentation of findings:

  • 81% of participants shifted in a positive direction across 8 inter-related core skills
  • the average positive shift seen using a scale 0–32 was +10.4 points for those that improved.

Statistically significant positive results (p<0.001) were found in each of the 8 dimensions of TheHorseCourse Skills Star, seeTHC Star online. A large standardised effect size (d=1.1) was found for the summed scores of the 8 dimensions.



RCT Feasibility 2018

Conference presentation

Professor Ann Hemingway, BU – oral presentation at Horses in Education & Therapy International (HETI) 2018 Congress, Dublin

"A Feasibility Study of an Equine Assisted Intervention for Children and  Young People with Mental Health and Behavioural Challenges, 2018"

  • TheHorseCourse ReStart fulfils all elements of feasibility study and is therefore suitable for an RCT
  • 95% completion rate across multiple cohorts
  • Over 70% show gains in 4 intermediate outcomes:
  1. improved attendance and engagement with school/training/work
  2. improved relationships
  3. reduced problem behaviours 
  4. greater self belief

Mechanism of Action 2018

Conference presentation

BU, multi-discipinary team – oral presentation at Horses in Education & Therapy International (HETI) 2018 Congress, Dublin

"A Pilot Study of the Mechanism of Action of an Equine Assisted Intervention, 2018"

Looking at bio-psysiological data during the intervention, researchers saw a correlation between learning episodes and galvanic skin response.

RCT Call to Action 2017

Summary Findings

BU and others are calling for funding for an RCT (randomised controlled trial) or other large scale controlled evaluation. This is in response to BU analysis of the TheHorseCourse Skills Star follow-up data on 126 participants from external professionals - the outstanding results, on top of all the previous evidence of effectiveness, have led to this call.

Bio-physiology 2017

Book chapter
Handbook of Wellbeing

Chapter: Hemingway, A., Handbook of Wellbeing. Routledge 2017, Prof Kate Galvin, editor.

"Horses and Humans: Teaching Young People to be Well"

The chapter is a narrative description of a psycho-physiological study of TheHorseCourse undertaken by a multidisciplinary team at Bournemouth University.

Horsemanship 2016

Scientific journal paper
Journal of Veterinary Behavior

North, S., Hemingway, A., MacLean, A., Laurie, H. and Ellis Hill, C., 2016. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 15 (sept oct 2016), 87. Publisher: Elsevier BV ISSN: 1558-7878. Also poster presentation at ISES Conference 2016, France.

"Evaluating a natural horsemanship program in relation to the ISES first principles of horse training."

This study found the horse-training method we use (Parelli) to be highly congruent with the humane training principles stated by the International Society of Equitation Science (ISES).

Evidence to date 2016

Summary: Evidence to date 2016

A summary of all the evaluation studies on our work and a snapshot of how the ReStart works.
Full copies of most of the studies are linked below.

Comparison of methods 2015

Scientific journal paper
Journal of Creativity in Mental Health

Jennifer A. Lentini & Michele S. Knox, Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 2015

"Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy With Children and Adolescents: An Update and Literature Review"

TheHorseCourse was identified in this peer reviewed analysis as one of the most prominent equine-assisted methodologies.

Youth Outcomes 2015

Pilot report
Youth Outcomes 2015

An internal evaluation of our first youth project, with support from the Charities Evaluation Service (NCVO)

  • 33% average improvement in managing anxiety
  • 29% average gain across eight core skills: Engagement, Calmness, Assertiveness, Focus & Perseverance, Empathy,
  • Realistic Planning, Communication, Responsibility
  • 85% of participants increased attendance/engagement with education
  • 80% of referrers attributed improvements to TheHorseCourse

Theory of Change 2015

Peer reviewed report
Youth Outcomes Summary

Written as a Theory of Change exemplar, in collaboration with New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) & CLINKS. Peer reviewed by the Correctional Services Accreditation & Advisory Panel (CSAAP), Ministry of Justice.

"TheHorseCourse Evidence Review, working with Offenders 2015"

  • Theory of Change and Contribution Analysis
  • 27 % points reduction in reoffending (p<0.01)
  • £8.30 return per £1 spent in prisons

Substance misuse outcomes 2015

Pilot report
Substance misuse report

Produced by EDP Drug & Alcohol Services (main service provider in the Southwest, UK)

"Moving Forward in Recovery Pilot Summer/Autumn 2015"

55% of participants shifted from disengaged/not progressing in treatment to attending and progressing. They attribute this change to the course. On average they also made a 12% improvement on the 8 skills taught by TheHorseCourse.

Prison Evaluation

Pilot Report
Interim Evaluation Report

Dr Rosie Meek, Head of Criminology, Royal Holloway University

"Interim Evaluation Findings, 2012, with update 2015"

In-prison behaviour improved, with a 74% drop in adjudications amongst the cohort of disruptive and disengaged violent young offenders. Following on, at 12 months post-release, reoffending among TheHorseCourse participants stands at 36%, a drop of 27 percentage points from the cohort’s 63% predicted reoffending rate (combined individual OGRS). 

Prison Study

Scientific journal paper
Animals & Society Institute

Hemingway, A., Meek, R. and Ellis-Hill, C., Society and Animals: ISSN: 1063-1119

"An Exploration of an Equine Facilitated Learning Intervention with Young Offenders 2014"

Reporting on the initial action-research project from which TheHorseCourse was born. Academics from Southampton and Bournemouth Universities reflect on interviews and on observations using a novel tool to classify body language. This tool was originated by TheHorseCourse and has now developed into the heart of the "non-verbals toolbox training" offered.

Prisoner Interviews 2013

BSc Dissertation
University of Southampton

Rachel Natasha Thomas, BSc Applied Social Sciences, Southampton University.

A detailed analysis of exit interviews with prisoner participants.