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Children & Young People

The Organisation:

portal house schoolSituated in St Margaret’s at Cliffe, Portal House School caters for up to 70 secondary aged pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs. Each term students can choose an enrichment activity to take part in every Wednesday afternoon. Activities offered are ones that students wouldn’t normally get to try like mountain biking, film production, golf, photography and electrical. Students can put their names down for activities they would like to try for the term. 

The Project:

Portal House logoStudents expressed an interest in horse riding, so the school are working with JC Inspiring People through Horses programme, a charity based at Owl House Stables which aims to provide therapy through horses. The charity has three branches – riding, equine assisted therapy and equine facilitated learning. A variety of horses and ponies are used, quieter ones often suit students who are feeling stressed or anxious, whilst more characterful horses are useful for those who struggle with communication and can learn to read the body language of the horses. 


  • Improved behaviour 
  • Better communication 
  • Development of friendships 
  • Increased confidence 

“They’re different students at the riding school, they listen to instructions, they have better behaviour and teachers comment on how much calmer they are once they’ve been to the stables”.

 Portal House Teacher

Key Learnings: 

Students like consistency. Students may need extra support, especially at the beginning to increase their confidence. Many students with complex needs like consistency and routine, build this into the project through using the same deliverer, day and location.  

Understand the needs of the individual. Get to know the individual, listen and learn what they like and dislike, understand their worries and concerns. This will empower and encourage them to engage in the activities and build up trust and understanding. 

Time of day. To get the most impact out of the sessions they have worked best when they have taken place in the morning. Teachers and parents have noticed an improvement in students’ behaviour and communication after the therapy sessions. 

“One lad has now gone and bought some wellies so he can continue to attend outside of school”.

Portal House Teacher

Next Steps: 

Portal House has now developed a relationship with Owl House Stables and will look to continue to run these sessions every Wednesday afternoon during term time.