What's Happening in Douglas blog

Horses help pupils

Working with animals and children has proved a big success for one secondary school.

Ballakermeen High School, in Douglas, has been working with a local riding school in an aim to harness the calming influence of horses, and the results have been very positive.

The project, which has been running for three years, aims to help autistic children and children with social, emotional and behavioural conditions.

The scheme, with the riding school at Grenaby Estates in Malew, has been nominated for an award in the Linking With Schools category of the Isle of Man Newspapers/Flybe Pride of Man Awards.

Grenaby Estates owner Iain Fairbairn said: “Equine therapy seems to help kids relax and develop social skills. The children that come to us are special needs, or from challenging social backgrounds and have difficulty socialising.

“The idea is that these kids develop a trust and empathy with horses, and pick up things like patience and mutual respect and develop a bond. Hopefully they can then apply these skills when dealing with people.

“One child who was prone to fits saw the frequency of the fits reduced dramatically after spending time with us at the riding school. We don’t know of a medical explanation for why, other than maybe being with the horses had a calming influence on his psyche.”

Melanie Christian, of Ballakermeen High School, said: “This therapeutic programme has had a fantastic benefit to our students and would not have been possible without the support of Grenaby Estates.”

Ballakermeen High School has also won a gold award from the government’s Investors in People scheme, which recognises good leadership skills. The school has 1,500 pupils and 200 members of staff.

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