In the summer, 18 teenagers with a range of challenging life issues from secondary and special needs schools in Devon, successfully completed a demanding trek leading Dartmoor ponies across almost 14 miles of the toughest terrain on Dartmoor.
Ponies George, Rolo and Smartie, from Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (DPHT), were the ‘platform for learning’ for the 10-week programme the teenagers worked through called ‘Fresh Tracks’ – culminating in the Ten Tors challenge.
One of the UK’s most demanding outdoor youth challenges, teams of young people navigate 35, 45 or 55 miles across Dartmoor over two days. Fresh Tracks was created and delivered by the DPHT as part of its ‘Ponies Inspiring People’ (PIP) equine assisted learning programme.
Students underwent 10 weeks of intensive training to build their handling skills with ponies, walking safely in the Moorland environment, navigation, first aid and teamwork.
Sam Battershall, assistant head at Teign Academy, said: “The challenge these young people faced and overcame is huge and gives them a sense of hope and ambition. It’s the proof they need that if they put their mind to something then they can achieve it. It builds resilience and mental strength as well as positive communication skills, overcoming fears and a true sense of team.”
Organiser Dru Butterfield added: “Delivering Fresh Tracks is an amazing team effort. We could not deliver this without the commitment of the schools, families/carers, our volunteer guides and support team members.”
* The primary aims of the DPHT are to preserve and promote the Dartmoor pony – now on the ‘endangered breed’ – encouraging people to buy them as all round family ponies and for conservation grazing.