Four beats to freedom - a horseback journey through New Zealand

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In my ten years as a Head, and many more in the classroom, I always felt that whilst we can spend hours on curriculum content and delivery, record keeping and target setting, the most important thing we do in school is help ‘people learn to be people’. 

Young people with special learning and emotional needs, who find it hard to cope with the demands of school and the work place without support, are still, as we all know, at risk of being discarded by society.  The Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy, in the New Forest, is a unique establishment for the training of such young people. At this centre, horses are a channel through which, by virtue of their unique temperament and confirmation, individuals are enabled to take their rightful place in society and in the work place.

It is the work of this centre, (combined with a perverse wish for a real personal challenge!) that has inspired me to plan an expedition on horseback to ride the length of New Zealand from South to North.  I shall have two horses, and will be travelling off road wherever possible, often in remote high country, and normally camping or staying in shearing sheds and musterers’ huts.

At points along the way young people with disabilities, for whom the four strong legs of a horse spell a freedom of movement that they may never otherwise feel, will join me. I aim to give   these young people the opportunity to ‘grow’ through participation in a physically challenging event that operates at local, national and international level.   

I shall also be promoting the work of the Brooke Hospital for Animals, which provides veterinary care for working equines in parts of the Developing World and educates their owners in better animal husbandry.   By having healthier, stronger animals with longer working lives the owner’s economic situation is vastly improved and so the cycle of poverty in which he lives is broken. 

Please may I  bring the expedition into your school, to talk with the children about the challenges it presents, and about the challenges faced in the daily lives of those who will benefit?


Age range and facilities

The topic is probably best suited to Key Stage 2 or lower Key Stage 3 children, but I am very happy to include go older or younger if you wish  - ideally as a separate group.  All that I would need is the use of an OHP and a screen.


Ideally I will need about 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the age of the children and the size of a group.     I hope that I can raise a few questions in the children’s minds, about our perception of ability, about the limitations we set ourselves, and about the nature of ‘realising a dream’.   

Ongoing Project

The children may follow my progress throughout the year, on the expedition website. .   When I get back I hope I may come in to your school, in the autumn term 2002, to show slides and give a talk about the adventure, the country, and about the lives of the people who joined me.

Materials available

On the website you will find a sheet of teaching ideas and some worksheets that you might like to use with the children – you can of course adapt them to your own needs.

The ride runs from 20 October to approximately the end of May

I am available for talks/ slide shows throughout the autumn term 2002.   To book, please contact Mrs J Pearson, 39 Alma Ave, Foulridge, Colne, Lancs,  BB8 

Or email

It would be wonderful if any school feels it can get involved with sponsorship:  any money raised in sponsorship from schools will go to the charities themselves: I am not seeking funding for my own trip!

 I hope to hear from you!

 Mary Pagnamenta



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