A group of young people receiving support from West Mercia charity YSS (Your Support Service) have been busy this summer learning how to care for horses and ponies, as part of ‘Divert’, a YSS service that provides one to one support to 13 to 16 year olds who are involved, or at risk of becoming involved in, the criminal justice system.


Divert is a diversionary service aimed at young people who are displaying anti-social behaviour, have started to disengage with education and training and have little or no focus. The young people who choose to join Divert often have a myriad of different issues, and many can feel that what is on offer in the community is not for ‘people like them’. YSS changes that perception by introducing them to a wide variety of activities, including sports clubs, employment training programmes, educational courses and community activities like art or music groups.

Over the six week summer holidays YSS keyworkers organised activities for service users, giving them the opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills and increase self-confidence, including horse experiences every Wednesday morning.

The sessions, organised in association with Perry Riding for the Disabled in Yeaton, Shrewsbury, have given Divert service users the opportunity to learn about every aspect of caring for horses and ponies. Activities included ‘poo picking’, measuring food, grooming and washing tails, cleaning hooves, training ponies by getting them used to being around people, as well as riding on both live and mechanical horses.

Pictured above is Tom, a young person referred to Divert, taking part in a vaulting lesson. Vaulting, like gymnastics on horseback, uses a pad on the horses back in place of saddle, and is done at the walk and trot. Chris Cosgrove, YSS keyworker who has been supporting Tom, said: “Tom had never even sat on a horse until these sessions began three weeks ago! It has been fantastic to witness these young people grow in confidence and self-belief, overcome their fears and do things that they believed were not for ‘people like them’. To see the smiles on their faces as they share time with the horses is amazing and has hopefully given them something that they will remember for a long time to come.”

Jane Barker, owner of the riding centre, said: “We were really pleased to be able to work with YSS and support service users referred to Divert. RDA are keen to work with any young people who are socially isolated or need support to prevent them becoming marginalised by disadvantage.”

The ‘horse experience’ mornings will continue until 29 August - the end of the summer holidays - and form part of a programme of activities, including fishing, golf, archery, climbing and laser maze, which have been attended and enjoyed by young people throughout the summer.

To find out more about Divert please click here.