Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Background children may suffer are related to the



against women – particular intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a
major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights” – World
Health Organisation (WHO) | Violence against women (2017). They state that 1 in
3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in
their lifetime.

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Aid explain how it has become widely accepted that abuse at any time in an
individual’s life is often the main reason in the development of various mental
health disorders, substance misuse, self-harm and even suicide attempts
(Women’s Aid, 2015). The effects that domestic abuse survivors suffer are a
large public health issue as they can result in long lasting health issues, not
only for the abused women but also the people around them.  It is believed that half of all people who
report domestic abuse have children (NICE, 2016). They believe that various
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that children may suffer are related to
the potential development of disease and social wellbeing as they get older.


use of equines as therapy is experimental in nature and focuses on shared
experiences – Whittlesey-Jerome (2014). Schultz et al (2007) explains how
horses can be used as a form of psychotherapy, as they share several
characteristics that are similar to humans, therefore may mirror the
behavioural traits as their client, giving them an insight into a unique and
non-threatening environment. Therapists have witnessed significant differences
in human behaviour when in the presence of horses (Whittlesey-Jerome, 2014).
When with the horses, they negotiate a trusting relationship as well as
building on their problem solving skills (EAGALA, 2013).


Problem solving
skills may include situations such lifting a horse’s hoof to pick out, the
horse will only lift their hoof off the group if they decide to do so, and they
cannot be forced. The participant of the therapy may gain feelings of anger or
frustration if the horse is unwilling to lift its hoof, therefore this gives
the therapist the opportunity to help the participant process their feelings
and understand that the horse is more likely to respond positively if they have
a positive mind set (Schultz, 2007).


horses, all emotion is equal, understanding it is what is important, for then
an appropriate response is safely possible. Transferring that lesson to an
abuse survivor is powerful” – Porter-Wenzlaff (2007).


(2007) explores how being in such an environment as an outdoor setting invites
awareness of your physical being and stimulates senses. The stimulated senses
allows the abused victim to understand and become part of the environment in a
positive way and increases their self-worth. Shultz (2007) believes that this
provides safety and the therapist assists individuals to see how they fit into
the world. 




Obstacles” is a programme designed between The Welsh Institute of Therapeutic
Horsemanship (WITH) and Gorwel, Gwynedd Domestic Abuse Services for women and
girls who are survivors of violence or abuse.


Comic Relief are
funding this project as its aims are in line with one of their new global
strategies – “Empowering women and girls so that they are safe and free to lead
the lives they choose” Comic Relief (2017). In keeping with this aim, the
Overcoming Obstacles project will use the sport of Competitive Western Trail
Riding and Horse Agility to enable women and girls who are survivors of
domestic abuse to develop essential life skills, build confidence, improve
mental and physical health, create social networks, gain leadership skills and
access employment and training opportunities.


With this being
the first horse riding project specifically for and designed around the needs
of female survivors of abuse in the UK, the hopes are that equipping
participants with self-esteem, transferrable skills and a support network
through meaningful activity can help tackle the wider social issue of violence
against women and girls, breaking the cycle of abuse.




Aims and


The overall aim
of this research is to evaluate if the project “Overcoming Obstacles” has a
positive impact on its clients mental health wellbeing and self-esteem over a
minimum of 8 weeks through a qualitative approach.


The main aim of this research is to discover – does
building a relationship with a horse improve the self-esteem and mental health
wellbeing of a female domestic abuse survivor. 



To understand the individuals self-perception of
their personal progress

To assess if there is a noticeable difference between
the start and end of the programme

discover if individuals benefiting decide to proceed with a further 8 week
progression programme.




et al (2005) states that “qualitative methods fill a gap in the public health
tool box”. They believe this as they say qualitative research can assist in
understating underlying behaviours that quantitative methods alone could not.
Qualitative researchers say that research text can no longer be assumed capable
of capturing lived experiences in the way it was once believed to be possible –
Seale (1999). Mazzei (2009) who looks at qualitative research as having a
‘voice’ supports this, by looking to ‘free’ the voice form whatever retrains it
from coming into being.


research is designed to allow participants to express their feelings and
opinions on what affect this programme has had on themselves. Therefore, a
qualitative methodical approach will be adopted.

qualitative study will target a specific population group which are
participants of ‘Overcoming Obstacles’ referred by Gorwel. Data collection will
take place through interviews and written comments of their feelings after
every session, allowing children to create drawings to express their feelings.





A purposive
sampling strategy will be adopted in this study as data will be collected by
participants who have been chosen due to having a central theme of experiences
and characteristics (Ritchie & Lewis, 2003).


Data will be
collected from women and adolescences who have been referred to the “Overcoming
Obstacles” project by Gorwel, Gwynedd Domestic Abuse Services.

eligible for interviews will be adolescences and adult females who are willing
to share their experience of the project, with younger clients getting the
opportunity to create a drawing that expresses their feelings towards the
project. As there is a target group of eligible participants, a purposive
sampling strategy will be adopted.


The researcher
is a volunteer of this project assisting with the sessions, therefore the aim
is to start with an informal conversation to ask if they would be interested in
participating in this study. The hope is that being approached by a familiar
face will make the participants feel more comfortable. If they decide they do
wish to participate in the study, they will be given a participation sheet and
a consent form to fill in allowing minimum 1 week for them to consider if they
would like to participate in this study.


Data Collection


will be collected through the use of interviews and keeping a weekly diary or

willing to verbally share their experience with the researcher will take part
in an interview at the equestrian centre where they participate in their
therapy, in a private room to ensure confidentiality. If the participant
wishes, their support worker from Gorwel can be present during the interview.
Each individual interview will be audio recorded and saved anonymously by
numbers. Participants will be asked to keep a diary with a short blurb of their
feelings after the session has completed which will be collected at the end of
their 8 week programme. This diary can be used to express their feelings either
through words or drawings.


data has been collected, it will be uploaded onto a password protected computer
and all paperwork will be stored in a locked filing cabinet that only the
researcher can gain access to.


methods have been adopted to give these individuals the opportunity to have a
voice and an opinion, where they may not have had the experience of doing so
previously. As this is the first project in the UK, interviews will also allow
the participant to express what they may feel would have been additionally
beneficial to the programme.

may not be able to explain their feelings in such words. Anning (1999) explains
how children have various ways of expressing themselves and making meanings out
of their surroundings, therefore finds that drawing provides children with the
opportunity to their thoughts and emotions known to the adult world.


Data Analysis


Data will be
analysed through a thematic analysis, where all data collected will be
identified and placed into corresponding patterns (Aronson, 1995). Interviews
will be audio recorded and transcribed, anonymising any identifiable data. Transcripts
and diaries will be looked into with the themes and will be coded according to
the categories (Burnard, 1991). These themes will allow the researcher to
answer the specific research questions.


Ethical Considerations


Ethical approval
for this study will be required from Liverpool John Moores University ethics
committee. The researcher has a current DBS form completed with ‘WITH’ along
with their volunteer form to ensure working with potentially vulnerable people
is approved.

participant will be provided with a participant information sheet and consent
form at least 1 week before the data collection. This allows the participant
time to be sure they are willing to take part in this study. If the participant
changes their mind and decides to opt out of the study at any time at all they
are able to do so.


and anonymity of the participants will be maintained throughout and will be one
of the researcher’s main priorities. It will be explained on the consent form
and verbally to the participant that if they disclose any information that
makes the researcher believe they are at risk, the information must be passed
onto Gorwel. The information required for data collection will all be about the
‘Overcoming Obstacles’ project, however it is possible that during interviews
the participants may disclose some personal information about their experiences
or something that may raise concerns. At this point, the researcher will explain
to the participant that they will have to inform Gorwel (who will be on the
premises) of the information they have shared.


If at any time
the participant wishes to opt out of the research, they are permitted to do so.

All data
collected will be scanned onto a password protected computer and paper copies
in a locked filing cabinet that only the researcher has access to.


Possible Limitations


Possible limitations
may include a participant who may not be in the area for the whole 8 week
period if they are fostered/ in residential in the area. Only participants who
are available for the full 8 week period will be asked to take part in this
research project.

limitations may include no parental/guardian consent given for a child to
participate in the study. Without signed consent forms, they will not be taking
part in this research. 


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