From understanding comes strength



Horseback Group

Thursday 15th November

We worked with the bigger horses today as well as the miniatures. Our grooming skills are developing well, and we were able to catch and halter our own horses.

The focus today was on ‘pressure and release’. We used this taught skill to make our horses back up and come to us without having to pull them. We are beginning to understand that by treating them with ‘Kindness, Patience, Consistency and Belief’ we can achieve a great connection with them. The whole group are growing in confidence and can now name all the parts of the grooming kit and the colours of different horses.

Our team building task today was to get our whole group across the ‘bridge’ without touching the floor. This is building on our communication and leadership skills.

We had an archery session this afternoon which was enjoyed by all.

Thursday 22nd November

Our horsemanship skills were developed further today as we took part in stable management tasks as well as more leading and controlling of the horses. We learned about feeding, mucking out stables and keeping the yard clean. Leading and being a good leader is vitally important, so we revisited the skills from last week. Today we also learned how to disengage the back end (get our horse to turn in a circle away from us without pulling or pushing them). Now we can move our horses around confidently and are beginning to understand the importance of body language and body energy.

As part of our qualification we are required to give a short presentation using photographs to document our journey. To help us with this Faye taught us a bit about photography. We experimented with composition, lighting, contrast and framing.

Thursday 29th November

We had a very wet but busy day at Horseback UK. Our focus was on different leadership styles and we used these skills when working with our horses. Our leading skills we tested when we had to lead our horse and give different commands at various stations. It was great to see the confidence building and all the work of the last few weeks coming together. We learned about desensitisation and helping the horse overcome fears in different situations. For this we needed to use all our confidence and show good leadership. We also developed this in our group game, see no evil hear no evil where we were learning about good communication.

Thursday 6th December

It was our final day at Horseback this term and we ended it by getting in the saddle. We completed our stable chores and took in the horses to groom. We were shown how to put on a western saddle and prepare the horses for being ridden. Emma gave us tuition on the wooden horse ‘Woody’ to show us how to mount, get the horse moving, stop, turn left and right and dismount safely. There were some nerves, but everyone was successful in getting on and riding their horse. This is the first step towards the riding we will do next term with the final ride out through Glentannar Estate. We finished our day with a fun Christmas game in two teams. We had to search for clues hidden around the farm and follow the instructions. The final part of the game was to dress up Patrick and Pinky in tinsel and reindeer antlers and have one member of each team dress as Santa and an elf! A great end to our first block of work.

Thursday 21st February

It was an extremely busy day with pupils having a recap of all the things they learned in the previous six weeks at Horseback. There were some stable management tasks, grooming and then ground work skills with the horses. Pupils were reminded of how to communicate commands in a consistent, kind and patient way. All pupils then rode in the outdoor school and did very well. Jay taught us bush craft skills in the woods. We learned about survival skills, how to make a waterproof shelter, a wind proof wall and a fire to keep warm. The pupils worked hard as a team and showed how their communication skills are improving, with everyone actively engaged for the benefit of the group.

Thursday 28th February

We had another packed day at Horseback UK with pupils spending a good deal of time in the saddle. They were taught about how to give confident commands and show that they can control the direction and speed of their horse. Pupils only have a few short weeks to shown that they are able to ride through Glentannar Estate in May so Emma put them through their paces. As always the connections between working with horses and working with others was highlighted.

To complete the discovery part of the John Muir Award we spent the afternoon at Glentannar with the ranger Mike. We walked part of the estate and he pointed out buildings of interest, animal tracks and signs and we learned about activities estates are involved in to make money.

Thursday 7th March

It was another packed day and each pupil completed four stations to build on their learning. Pupils worked individually with their horse in the round pen. Emma taught them how to communicate with their loose horse and about the psychology of herds, using this knowledge to connect with the horse and make the horse want to follow them through choice. It was an amazing experience to see and every pupil completed it confidently. For some they had to think about lowering their energy and for others they had to increase it to communicate effectively. Stable management chores and grooming was also completed as well as some workbook time.

We continued our John Muir Award at Glentannar Estate by working on part of our conserve section. We planted trees and cut down a dead tree by the old chapel. Teamwork, effective communication and respect were the key messages of today.

Thursday 1st November

Our first visit to Horseback UK started with an orientation of the working farm and all the safety rules. We were introduced to our new SQA folders and talked through some of the work required for this qualification.

Emma took us on a walkabout where we went into the fields and met some of the horses and ponies. She explained about the horseman’s handshake and how to act around horses. We were introduced to their 4 main principles; Kindness, Patience, Consistency and Belief. We discussed why these principles are so important both for horses and humans!

We began to learn about how to take care of horses and this started with grooming; essential to create a bond and to check horses for injuries or illness. We did some simple leading exercises and learned how to get the horses to listen to us.

Jay did some team work with us and we started talking about how to be effective communicators

Thursday 8th November

We focused on developing our grooming skills today and just becoming more comfortable around the horses and ponies. We began some leading work in the indoor school, so we could understand how to control the horses on the ground. We were taught about ‘pressure and release’ and the 4 principles needed to become an effective and kind leader for our horses. We were able to lead our horses around an obstacle course using our voice and body language to convey our instructions.

Jay challenged everyone by creating a task that required good communication skills. We worked in pairs with one person blindfolded. Each pair had to direct their partner to be able to throw a ball into a bucket whilst blindfolded! Harder than it sounds! We began to understand the importance of specific instructions and how to support each other.

Thursday 14th March

With the end of this block of Horseback fast approaching there was not time to waste today. Every pupil participated in grooming, riding and groundwork with their ponies and horses. The riding section of the day pushed pupils to take control of their horses and show that they can make them move where and when they want them to. Everyone began learning how to trot with the support of a walker beside them. The groundwork was a roundup of all they have learned so far and was a preparation for their practical assessment next week. We spent the afternoon back at Glentannar Estate completing our conservation section of the John Muir Award. This week we learned how to cut down trees that were encroaching on the bank of the loch. Pupils worked in teams, thinking about safety and effective tool use as well as learning about why trees had to be felled by hand on this delicate loch bank.


We worked in Clune Wood, Durris and had fun exploring and getting to know each other better. We used all our senses to identify and describe different natural materials whilst blindfolded. We cut and decorated wood slices and followed the story trail looking for clues as we went

Thursday 21st March

There was a lot of revision today of all the things we have learned at Horseback. This included colours, points of the horse, parts of the saddle and parts of a grooming kit and what they are used for. Workbooks were completed, before every pupil had a riding assessment and an assessment working with their horses on the ground. Everyone passed with flying colours and it was so impressive to see how much they have improved. The control of the horse will be very important when they are riding through Glen Tanar.

Thursday 28th March

Our final day at Horseback UK for this term was a day filled with fun and laughter. We played a variety of games on horseback which gave every pupil the opportunity to ride six different horses. They all coped beautifully showed great confidence and bravery. We also completed some problem solving games that emphasised the importance of team work and having roles within a team. The final games got everyone wet!