Centred Horseplay was the first fully approved hub of the registered charity TheHorseCourse. Founded by Harriet Laurie in Dorset, TheHorseCourse is an equine assisted behavioural change programme originally delivered in prison and now in the wider community throughout the UK. The ReStart course we run at Centred Horseplay was developed by TheHorseCourse and two UK universities.

The Restart

Our evidence based ReStart course is action-based, designed to interrupt participants’ usual thinking and emotional responses, whilst responsive to their individual pace and needs.

The ReStart is usually delivered over 5 consecutive days, working for approx 2 hours per day with 1-to-1 facilitator support. We teach, rehearse and repeat key resilience skills in an intensive and challenging, but fun way, with feedback in-the-moment from specially trained horses.

There is no discussion of the past. All sessions take place in action with the horses, there is no classroom content or talk-based therapy or counselling. Tasks are guided by the facilitator and the horses are selected and trained to provide especially clear and easily observed physical feedback to participants, many of whom may not have interacted with horses prior to taking part in the programme. The methodological focus is on social and emotional shifts being made ‘in the moment’, in response to difficulties encountered.

Our participants are unmounted handlers, learning to work in partnership with the horses on the ground. The course employs an approach using a series of specific tasks as tools to develop positive habits. This unique programme allows us to shape difficult behaviour with non-verbal strategies which seem to be more acceptable to those who struggle with conventional interventions.

The Skills Star below show the 8 key skills we work on:

  • Engagement (Confidence as a Learner) – enthusiastically taking on new challenges, pushing limits whilst also taking care of own confidence
  • Responsibility – taking responsibility for our own thoughts, emotions and actions
  • Calmness – having the habit of calmness and knowing how to create it in difficult situations
  • Assertiveness – able to be calmly assertive, without getting aggressive or upset
  • Realistic Analysis & Planning – Stopping to think before acting, making a realistic assessment of situations and planning accordingly
  • Focus & Perseverance – working towards goals despite setbacks
  • Relating to Others / Empathy – seeing the needs of others, offering care and support, feeling closely connected
  • Communication & Language – two way, respectful, assertive communications, having language to talk about thinking and emotions

On the last day, each participant has a robust reflective session with their facilitator – looking at their progress in each of the areas of the Skills Star (see Method for more info). We will also give each participant the opportunity to record a short video of everything they have learnt in the week.

Lighter Touch Sessions

In addition to the intensive ReStart we do offer Lighter Touch options for those who are not yet at the stage of being stuck or in crisis, for people wanting to see if this course is a good fit or for a younger person where 5 days would be too much.

Top-ups are also available subject to funding to those who might need longer term support after a ReStart course.

Non-verbals Toolbox

We offer a 2 hour complimentary non-verbal session to parents and/or carers to learn our proven strategies for recognising and shaping behaviour either before the ReStart course – especially if the date is a way off – or soon after.

We also offer frontline professionals a half-day training in our specialism – reading and responding to non-verbal behaviour. A game-changer with difficult or disengaged clients.

Our Method

For more information on what we do please go to our method page. Here you can see our Skills Star – before & after.