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Alternative Education

At Cumbria Rural Academy we offer alternative education provisions using horses. Our purpose is to work with young people to help them find new opportunities and give them the tools and knowledge for their future. We specialise in working with young people that do not feel they fit in with traditional education or struggle with building relationships in the classroom.

Our Mission 

Harness Change at Cumbria Rural Academy CIC provides educational courses and training to promote fitness, physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as emotional awareness with due regard to the welfare of animals and wider ecological and environmental impact.

Our Ethos


Harnes Change at Cumbria Rural Academy CIC is a programme of regular sessions rather than a one-off or infrequent visits. The cycle of planning, observation, collaboration, adaptation, and review links each session.

Life Skills

The programme aims to promote the holistic development of all involved, nurturing six life skills for all young people:

  • Building relationships,

  • communication,

  • confidence,

  • responsibility,

  • teamwork,

  • perseverance.

Approved Centre 

The programme takes place in our BHS Approved riding centre. This link to nature, horses and the outdoors, in a safe environment, supports the development of a lifelong relationship between the young person and the natural world.


The programme offers young people the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and themselves.

Through this, they expand their confidence, curiosity, and learning. 


The programme uses a range of awards and achievements for everyone. This creates a community for development, learning and celebration.

Professional Coaches

The programme is delivered by our centre coaches, who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.

Our coaches are trained to engage with young people and guide them through their chosen education pathways to achieve their individual learning outcomes.

About Our Programmes

With each of our programmes, students will have the opportunity to work alongside our coaches and staff members in a working yard. This means they can participate in a professional environment handling clients and horses. This live working environment will allow students to gain real-world work experience and have positive adult interactions while working towards their accredited qualifications.  Working in a vocational learning environment will assist them with managing their emotions, behaviours and conduct whilst working within the team.

As prey animals, horses are constantly alert to potential danger and are extremely perceptive of their environment and those around them. They are herd animals, highly aware of the intentions and non-verbal communication of others. These cues are highlighted to the student by our coaches to encourage students to explore responses to their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

Throughout the accredited course, students will be required to use their functional skills to solve problems, complete worksheets and calculate different aspects required for the care of the horse. Using horses as a real-world example, we can educate students in the application of academic skills. Some examples of these are:

  • Writing daily reports to hand over to the next team,

  • using maths to calculate the amount of feed needed.

  • learning the biology of the horse with the digestive system, skeleton, and functions of the horse's body.

  • Calculating costs on spreadsheets for management of stock, feed purchases and equipment.

Request a Prospectus

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Who Can Register

Our alternative education programmes have been designed for delivery to the following groups:

  • Young people aged 5 to 15 who are either permanently excluded, at risk of permanent exclusion or who have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).

  • Young people aged 16 to 25 who are not in employment, education, or training (NEET) therefore at risk of becoming socially excluded with income below the poverty line and without the skills to improve their economic situation.

Find Out More

Our standard programmes run on Tuesdays from 10 am – 2 pm. Our qualifications are on the RQF meaning students can gain credits for their education.

For information about the learning pathways and pricing, please request our prospectus. 

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