Hold your horses! Charity uses horses to help local young people get ahead

A national charity based in Hammersmith is using horses to help change the lives of young people in the borough.

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Pictured are Splash and Joe, two Irish cob horses from the Ebony Horse Club, with White City Estate residents and Key4Life representatives

A national charity based in Hammersmith is using horses to help change the lives of young people in the borough who are at risk of offending.

Key4Life aims to reduce youth re-offending with their innovative rehabilitation programme, working with young people in prison and those at risk of going to prison.

A key part of the programme is helping the young people to find a job, work experience and training opportunities as well as support writing CV’s and job interview techniques.

Horses play a central role in the charity’s rehabilitation work with young people. Working with and riding horses gives the young people the chance to learn life skills and deal with both emotional and behavioural difficulties.

 “Key4Life is playing a fundamental role helping local young people choose the right path to take in their lives,” said Cllr Sue Fennimore, Deputy Leader of H&F Council.

“We’re working in partnership with charities and voluntary organisations to support young people in the borough.”

H&F Council provides the charity with office space in the borough.

White City Estate

Young people from the White City Youth Club, situated in the heart of White City Estate, are the latest group of youngsters to have been in the saddle with Key4Life.

They recently spent time in Somerset with Key4Life horses. For most of them, it was the first time they had experienced being in the countryside or even riding a horse.   

It formed part of an 8-week pilot programme which focused on emotional resilience, employability skills and on-going support for local young people aged 11-16.

To mark the end of the programme, Splash and Joe, two Irish cob horses from the Ebony Horse Club, were invited down to White City Estate to give the participants the chance to have a horse ride on the estate.

One of the lucky ones was White City resident, Michael McDonagh, who has gone on to find a job with St James after taking part in the course.

“This course has really helped build my confidence,” said the 18-year-old. “I’ve even managed to get a job after Key4Life helped me get my CSCS card.

“The people at Key4Life are fantastic and I would recommend any other young people looking to get their life on track to get in touch with them.”

Key4Life founder Eva Hamilton established the charity in 2012 following the London riots in the summer of 2011.

Key4Life’s mission is to reduce re-offending through its rehabilitation programme for young people who are in prison or at risk of going to prison.

Eva said: “Horses play a crucial role in helping these young people rehabilitate including bringing horses into prisons. Horses pick up on everything you’re feeling whether you are anxious, uncertain or aggressive, they can turn away from you or ignore you. However, if you are relaxed, focused, assertive and confident you can get horses to do anything. Horses are similar to humans in the sense that they feel emotion. These young people create a bond with the horses which is truly incredible, and we are ecstatic to be able to bring the horses on the White City Estate.”

Key4Life will be continuing their work in White City with two six-month programmes. One will work with local young people over 18 years old and the other programme will work with under 18s.

To find out more about their work visit the Key4Life website.

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