Founded in 2011, the WITH began life as The Penytrip Project, a six month pilot project funded by the National lottery: Awards for All Wales scheme that used Equine Facilitated Learning to help young people with emotional, behavioural and social difficulties. At the time, it was the only project of its kind in North Wales and Therapeutic Horsemanship was a relatively unheard of concept. However, parents, local agencies and other voluntary bodies were open-minded and willing to try the new service. Over the course of the pilot project 15 socially or economically disadvantaged young people took part. The results were startling. 90% of participants reported increased confidence, 85% felt that their communication skills had improved and more than 75% experienced greater emotional resilience and an improved ability to solve problems. Two selectively mute young people began to speak during their time at the project, 8 out of 10 young offenders had their cases closed with Youth Justice and more than three quarters of those not in education, employment or training returned to school or found work within eight weeks.
As word of our effectiveness in working with hard to reach young people spread locally, referrals began to flood in. In response to the success of the pilot project, we continued with the Penytrip Project and launched an additional arm for children and young people who were not in education, employment or training - The Starfish Project. In addition to an ever-increasing number of enquiries from parents and referrers, we also began to receive messages from those hoping to become Therapeutic Horsemanship Practitioners.
It soon became clear to us that training in the field of Therapeutic Horsemanship was scarce, of varying quality and often prohibitively expensive. While the fields of Hippotherapy and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy are well-regulated and have their own governing bodies, many more forms of equine-assisted therapeutic activities exist that are undefined and largely unregulated. In Wales, the industry is particularly under-represented with centres being few and far between.
In 2013, we changed the name of the charity to The Welsh Institute of Therapeutic Horsemanship (WITH) in order to reflect our growing role in providing training and advice in the field of Therapeutic Horsemanship. It is our mission to make these kinds of services safer, more easily accessible and more widely recognised. In addition to helping disadvantaged young people to develop confidence, communication skills and self-esteem through therapeutic horsemanship, WITH acts as a professional body for equine therapeutic activities in Wales, providing training, promoting standards and establishing a network of approved centres. We also offer certification to practitioners from across the UK.
By the end of 2014, demand for our services had reached such a point that the facilities at Pen Y Trip Farm were no longer suitable. So we started looking for ways to increase our capacity. We are currently fundraisingso that we can expand.