Horse whispering lessons help Porthcawl Comprehensive pupils gain confidence

Horses have been taken into a high school for special lessons to help pupils with additional needs gain confidence and self esteem.

Students have been taught natural horsemanship – also known as horse whispering – to help improve their communication and social skills.

A teacher at Porthcawl Comprehensive said the unique series of weekly lessons on the school fields has seen behaviour improve and pupils are now happier and more relaxed.

“I thought I’d give it a try, but I have actually really loved it,” said Abbie Walker, 12, one of the group who have enjoyed 10 weekly lessons with ponies Sweetie, Tango, Bonnie and Honey.

“We have been learning the signs that a pony is scared by looking at their ears and making them turn around and gaining more confidence,” she said.

“We walk them around, we brush them and help them to gain more trust and we also teach them not to come into our personal space.”


Abbie added she had benefited by gaining more confidence and has “learned not to be scared”.

Keziah Rhoden, 25, who runs the Liberty Horses community interest company in Nottage, Porthcawl, has taken two horses into the school once a week for the last 10 weeks.

She said learning to develop a rapport with horses and telling them how you want them to move using body language alone can help pupils gain the confidence they need to cope with the world.

The mum of two has been running similar courses for two years, but this is the first time she has taken the provision into a school.

Last week the pupils enjoyed a special end-of-term session with the ponies near Liberty Horses’ base in Nottage, where they used their skills to help the horses become familiar with unusual objects, Christmas decorations, which they were dressed with.

“The best thing is learning to control your fear,” said Casey Bevan, 14.

Joe McArdle , 12, added: “My favourite thing has probably been walking them about because I haven’t really worked with horses before.”

Angela Dilley , additional needs co-ordinator at Porthcawl Comprehensive, said: “We found out about Liberty Horses through one of our pupils last year. Her support was provided by the Local Education Authority. Once we saw the progress made by this pupil, we decided that this was an effective way of helping other pupils too, so we paid for some support sessions for a young lady now in Year 9.

“Keziah then approached us and asked if we would like her to work with a number of pupils in school and of course, we said yes.

“The pupils were chosen for a number of reasons: lack of self confidence, anxiety, self-esteem issues, improving social and communication skills.

“Two of the pupils have a diagnosis of ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) but all of them have responded very positively to the sessions.

“Since starting these sessions, we have seen increased self confidence and better communication skills in nearly all pupils. In fact, all pupils say they are more confident.

“The youngsters appear happier in school and some, who have challenging behaviour, have appeared more relaxed.

“The end result for them is improved behaviour in school. There is a noticeable improvement in teamwork and co-operation between this group.

“However, if you ask the pupils they would say simply that it is fun and they look forward to Tuesdays when Bonnie, Tango and Sweetie come to school.

“One pupil said ‘It is the best thing I have ever done!’.”

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