The Montana Project is led by Alison Laws and Emily Greenhalgh, Directors of Hopefields Education Alternative Provision. Based in the Tees Valley, Hopefields provide bespoke education packages for young people in and across Teesside and the North East of England.
The Montana Project aims to give young people, regardless of their background, the opportunity to develop their skills, enabling them to move forward in life and achieve success in whatever field they choose.
Hopefields have developed at the Montana Project, which is designed to enhance the lives of young people and help them gain success in all walks of life. The work young people do with the horses allows them to use the skills they learn and transfer them to everyday life in a social setting.
The Montana Project develops life skills through both theory and practical sessions, over 6 week certificated courses have proved very popular and major life changing improvements in Communication, Confidence, Relationships, Teamwork, Responsibility and Personal Achievement are prevalent at the end of the course.
The Montana Project aims to help young people to:
The task of catching a horse may seem fairly simple and straight forward.
At the Montana Project, our young people develop an understanding and knowledge of what the horses require from them to enable this to be successful - correct body language, confidence, empathy and care, are all required for the horse to accept the human without fear or worry. Everyday skills we require to deal with each other, throughout life. The Montana Project gives lifelong learning skills, with specific focus and bespoke learner packages.
‘Horses change lives. By just simply being themselves, using all that they have and that nature has given to them, they help people evolve into more than they ever thought possible, they allow self development in a positive and consistent way. They provide peace and tranquillity to troubled souls, they give us hope.'
Horses are prey animals and have a heightened sense of flight behaviour that is instinctual to their survival. Because of this, horses are sensitive to the stimulus of each participant. They react to the stimulus through body language and participants must adjust their feelings and behaviours appropriately in order to work successfully with the animal.
Utilising objectively driven exercises involving the horses, participants learn critical life skills and develop a heightened self-awareness that has parallels to their everyday lives. Self-awareness can reveal patterns of negative behaviour and gives participants the opportunity to think in a new way, while improving non-verbal body language that may be negatively impacting them in their everyday life.
Powerful yet gentle, perceptive yet without any judgment – horses can help at risk young people gain knowledge about their inner demons and their inherent strengths.
A horse does not care if you have dropped out of school, been in jail or if you are unpopular or have a learning disability…they only care about what you exhibit in the moment., how you make them feel. Horses are incapable of lying, cheating and manipulating. This alone sets a good example to young people - they soon realise that it is counterproductive to cheat, manipulate, or lie while engaged in activities with a horse.
The horse provides an unconditional, non-judgemental and honest platform that is fundamental to helping young people develop with confidence.
Studies have indicated that the benefits of equine therapy have been successful in helping students show marked improvements in the following areas:
· Problem Solving Skills
· Critical Thinking
· Self regulation
· Situational awareness
· Self awareness
· Self control
· Communication skills
· Setting healthy boundaries
· Taking healthy risks
· Planning ahead
· Self sacrifice
· Encouraging others
· Anger Management and Stress tolerance
· Setting and Reaching Goals
· Developing Communication Skills
· Personal and Social Responsibility
· Companionship and Friendship
· Learning Safe and Natural Horsemanship
· Emotional awareness
· Flexibility and Impulse control
· Interpersonal relationships
The Montana Project is committed to embodying these skills with young people who are hard to reach, and hard to place.