Almost 50 young volunteers are now able to stop horsing about and finally take the reins having finished their training at Stepney Bank Stables – thanks to a cash boost of £6,400 from the North of Tyne Combined Authority and generous members of the community.

The project at the Ouseburn-based stables provides local teenagers with the chance to care for and ride horses – helping to increase their confidence and self-esteem and boost their health and wellbeing.

Eva, 12, and Sarah, 14, both completed their training earlier this month, after encouragement from their respective grandparents. The two girls have become firm friends as a result. “It was really good”, they said together, when asked about their experience.

Two teenage girls in riding gear stand either side of a white pony. The girl on the right is stroking its mane.

Sarah, 14, and Eva, 12, both completed their training earlier this month

Stables Manager, Sara Newson, said: “We operate an open-door policy. We get young people, from all walks of life, come together through a shared interest, creating unusual – and often lasting – friendships. The social mixing is a vital part of their learning.” Among the range of young people who volunteer at Stepney Bank are children who have struggled to remain in mainstream education but for whom the stables – which has its own youth worker, Katherine – serves as a sanctuary of sorts. “They have to survive out there, but they can be themselves in here”, said Newson.

For Stepney Bank staff, the positive impact that spending time with horses can have on youngsters – particularly kids who might struggle to communicate with others – is clear. In recent years mental health professionals have shown increased interest in working with and caring for horses as a form of therapy and support. “We know from experience that being around horses can be a fantastic intervention for young people – especially those suffering from anxiety or with neurodiverse conditions that can affect communication skills”, Newson continued.

The training at Stepney Bank helps strengthen adolescents’ employment prospects too – giving them structure and teaching them skills like time management. For teenagers like Jess Ribton, 16, it gave her an opportunity to start mentoring more junior riders. “You help younger kids who are less confident”, she explained. “You watch people grow and develop around horses.” The funding from the NTCA’s crowdfunding scheme has come at a critical time for the stables, which has been a key feature of Ouseburn’s community for almost 25 years. “We were really struggling”, Newson said. “Costs have shot up”.

Elected Mayor for the North of Tyne, Jamie Driscoll, recently visited the stables. He said: “Stepney Bank is clearly a special place. It’s a stables, of course, but it’s really all about the kids – their lives, their futures. Somewhere young people can be themselves, learn and share new skills, and form lasting friendships. Somewhere they feel safe. I’m so glad we could contribute some cash to support Sara, her team, and the invaluable work they’re doing here.”

Created by the NTCA, #CrowdfundNorthofTyne gives local people the opportunity to create and fund projects which celebrate and improve their local areas.