Anastasia & Victoria's story

Home from home


Anastasia,11 and Victoria, 16 are sisters. They left Ukraine in March when the city they lived in was bombed and it was too dangerous to stay.
After stays in Poland, Germany and France they are now living with their mum and host family in Milton Keynes. Their dad remains in Ukraine under martial law.

The girls have undergone an extremely traumatic time and find themselves in a new country with new rules, new people and a new language. They were referred to Ride High by a Ukraine Aid Charity to provide some support and stability to help them feel more settled. They joined us in September.

Two months into their membership the girls couldn’t speak more enthusiastically about Ride High. They miss the familiarity of home, family and friends, but in Ukraine, they’d spend a lot of time around animals, so spending time with the horses gives them comfort. “I love to feel the horses next to me. They are huge and powerful animals and I feel safe and protected around them”. Anastasia told us how she loves to speak to horses. They’re both very proud of how Anastasia is now trotting, and Victoria can canter.

Anastasia and Victoria are a long way from Ukraine and it could be some time before they’re able to return and be reunited with family and friends. Right now, we’re happy that Ride High is providing them with a little piece of home when they need it most.

During the summer we delivered a special six-week programme for Ukrainian children who had recently settled in Milton Keynes.

After everything they’ve been through we were pleased to be able to provide them with something positive to focus on and to look forward to. The children had a fantastic time making new friends, building new skills and finding their confidence. Thank you to our wonderful volunteers who supported this project and to the Milton Keynes Community Foundation for helping to fund it

The girls have recently started school and although they’re settling in, they have challenging days. They tell us that Ride High is something they look forward to – a place they can relax, be themselves and feel happier and stronger.  They’ve also made new friends and are enjoy participating in group activities in the clubroom. They are especially grateful for the friendships they’ve build with their Club Leader Mark and the volunteers.



Cameron's story

From strength to strength


Cameron is 13. From a young age his home life has been challenging. In the last couple of years school has also become an unhappy place as he’s been bullied and at times, has just wanted to give up.

CAMHS referred Cameron to Ride High and since starting on our programme Ride High has become a very important part of Cameron’s life.

“Ride High is amazing. It’s an escape from school and the highlight of my week”. Before Ride High Cameron felt isolated and like no one understood him, meeting new people who are experiencing their own challenges has helped him to realise that he’s not alone. “People at school say horrible things, but here I can be myself without any judgement and I’ve made some great friends”.

Cameron had never ridden a horse before Ride High so was naturally nervous, but with support and encouragement from our team, he’s overcome his fears and says that being around the horses now makes him feel a sense of confidence and calm which is helping him to open-up more and talk about his feelings – something he’s never been able to do before.

Cameron said, “I’m forever grateful to everyone at Ride High” and in turn we’d like to thank Cameron for sharing his story so far. He’s doing amazingly and we can’t wait to see him go from strength-to-strength.



Leo's story

Magic of horses


Leo is 10 and is full of negativity, caused by what he calls a ‘bully brain’ constantly telling him that he’s not good enough.
Coupled with this, his parents’ separation has had a huge emotional impact on him, so he struggles at home at well as at school, where he’s very quiet and finds it hard to make friends.

Leo’s school referred him to Ride High in the hope that we can help him to become more confident and to believe in himself.

Two months into his programme and Leo entered the room eyes down. He’d not had a good day at school, but when I asked him what he’d done in his Ride High session, he immediately raised his head and with an enormous smile he said, “We stuck a thermometer up a horses bum to take its temperature”! He continued by telling me that Trelly is his favourite pony because he likes her panda eyes, and how horses’ ears tell you what mood they are in. This was the first time Leo and I had met, but the magic of the horses prevailed, and Leo came alive.

Leo told me how each week he feels a little nervous to start, but once he’s with the horses how much fun he has. “Amazing, interesting and fun” are the words he used to describe Ride High. Most importantly, Leo said that he doesn’t hear the voice in his head talking to him as much when he’s with us, and how much happier and confident he feels in himself. Leo has also built a very strong bond with his Club Leader Mark and is making strides in talking about his feelings and emotions and takes great comfort from knowing he’s not alone.

Leo has come along away during his time at Ride High and we’re now helping him to manage his inner thoughts when he’s away from Ride High and to take the positivity he feels around the horses to other areas of his life.



Grace's story

Amazing Grace


Grace is just 13 years old, but she’s already had to cope with challenges and responsibilities that many adults would struggle with. Grace is a young carer for her mum who has epilepsy.

In the early days of her diagnosis, she had to take care of mum who needed 24/7 supervision. It was a very scary and uncertain time and Grace would worry constantly about her safety. “I’d hear a noise and have to check on mum. One day I had to give her CPR to save her life”.  Whilst home life was difficult, Grace also found school hard too. 

Grace was referred to Ride High by her social worker with extreme anxiety. “I was in a low place. I love horses so I was happy to be offered a place at Ride High”.

For someone who has experienced so much at such a young age it was amazing to listen to Grace’s account of what Ride High has come to mean to her over her six­month membership. 

Grace describes Ride High as a place where she can forget about her problems and stresses… it’s a positive distraction. Whilst many of us don’t like Monday’s, for Grace it’s her most favourite day of the week as that’s when she comes to Ride High. “I’ve always struggled to go to school but coming here on a Monday sets me up and helps me to get through the week.  It’s become part of my routine and somehow makes it easier to do other things”.

Grace has built a great connection with the horses. She’s able to sense how they mirror our feelings and behaviour and so has learnt to be calm and less anxious around them. She rides well and has learnt so much about the horses. Where she was very quiet when she first came to Ride High, her self-confidence has grown and she’s happy to speak out. “At school I’ve always been anxious about what other people think, but at Ride High I don’t need to pretend. I can be myself and not worry about being judged. At Ride High I have friends and we all support each other”.

Grace has achieved so much whilst at Ride High and it’s a huge relief to her and to mum that she’s now feeling much better. Mum’s health has massively improved and during her time with us Grace has also changed school and is now in a much happier environment. Coming to Ride High has provided encouragement, comfort, routine, and the self-confidence to know she’s going to be okay.  “Anxiety can still strike any time, but now I don’t let it stop me”.

We’re so proud of Grace and are humbled by her attitude and strength. We’re also very proud that we’ve been able to play a small but important part in helping to shape what we believe will be a very happy future for her.




Amelia's story

Life After Lockdown


Amelia is 16. She suffers with severe anxiety which has prevented her from fully participating in life - including school, for some years.

Like many young people, Amelia struggled during lockdown. Whilst it did give her some temporary respite from things that trigger her anxiety, returning to life after lockdown has been a huge challenge for Amelia, and she’s not yet been able to go back to school. Amelia is very quiet and talking makes her feel anxious. So, when she was offered counselling, unsurprisingly it made her feel worse, and a different approach was required.

Amelia was referred to Ride High by her doctor. She has been with us for seven weeks now and sitting chatting with her in the Clubroom you can already see a positive change. “I don’t go out very often. Ride High has become my reason to get out of bed and leave the house”. Amelia enjoys spending time with the horses - “There’s something very different about interacting with horses rather than humans. It’s easier. And I’m in a small group where I feel safe and am starting to talk to people, as opposed to school where there are lots of people and I feel very anxious”.

Coming to Ride High has given Amelia the confidence to try other activities. More recently she’s started going for walks and to the library. She’s even visited school to sit her GCSE exams - this is a huge achievement and so important for the future. And Amelia is now looking towards a much brighter future as she hopes to be able to go to college to study textiles.

“Amelia has been suffering with severe anxiety since she was 13. Although she struggled before covid, lockdown had a hugely negative impact on her life. It was so upsetting to see her having gone from a bright and lively girl to just a shell of her former self. Since Amelia started at Ride High ,I have noticed such a huge difference in her.She spends more time down- stairs and less time in her bed and she's more talkative and enthusiastic. I am so grateful she’s had this opportunity. This increase in confidence that Ride High has given her meant that not only did we attend the college open evening, but she even attended some of her exams which 6 months ago I never thought would happen.  Thank you so much for the work that you do and difference you’ve made already”. Amelia’s mum.

Ride High is helping Amelia to find to find her voice and to learn to manage her anxieties. She has a quiet determination and we are confident she’ll succeed.



Finn's story

Creating a brighter future


Finn has just turned 16. He’s taking part in Ride High’s first ‘Portfolio Programme’ which is specifically for young people not attending school.

Finn suffers with anxiety and depression and was incredibly nervous when he first started at Ride High. He had a huge fear of people, and initially his mum would stay for his sessions. Sitting and chatting to him four months into the programme, it’s clear to see that Finn has made huge strides in his confidence and his ability to communicate with others.

For Finn one of the most important things Ride High has given him is the opportunity to make friends. He wears a huge smile on his face whilst talking about Mark his Club Leader, and another member in his group. Finn has never been to school, so these relationships are extremely precious to him. Ride High is also Finn’s first commitment - in particular, working with the horses has required him to be focused and take on an element of responsibility. This seemed almost impossible to begin with, but with support and by attending every week, Ride High has become a familiar routine - an alternative haven to home - and one which is helping him to control negative feelings and anxieties, and to adopt a more positive outlook.

But Finn hasn’t stopped there. Ride High has helped him to step even further outside of his comfort zone and to engage in other rewarding experiences he’d never imagined previously. Finn attended the Ride High Ball in January and more recently visited Newmarket for the day - these experiences challenged Finn but he gained a great sense of pride from achieving them. He has even started to express hopes and desires for the future. In the Clubroom his artistic abilities have shone and where he once never considered what might lie ahead - he is now firmly considering a creative career path. To help him we reached out to WSA - a creative agency in Milton Keynes and much to Finn’s delight (and ours) their MD Jerry is going to mentor Finn to help him make his dreams a reality.

The progress Finn has made whilst at Ride High is astounding. We’re so proud of everything he’s achieved so far and have every confidence that he’ll continue to do great things in the future.



Emilija's Story

Music to our ears


We are delighted to share some exciting news on behalf of our member Emilija... 

Emilija, 18 has recently received an unconditional offer to study music at the University of West London! She plays four different instruments no less!... She takes great strength from music and her dream is to become a Music Therapist so she can use her talents to help others. Emilija has experienced great trauma in her young life and moving to the UK from Lithuania just two years ago presented additional challenges. When it all became too much and her mental health was extremely low, she was referred to Ride High.

A couple of months into her membership Emilija now describes her time with the horses as being as important to her as her music. “To see, touch and hug the horses is so calming and is helping me to feel both emotionally and physically stronger. What I’ve been through makes it very hard for me to trust and confide in others, but by putting my trust in the horses I somehow feel like it’s becoming easier to trust people again.”

We are very proud of Emilija. She’s come such a long way during her time at Ride High - the fact that she even shared her good news demonstrates tremendous progress. She is immensely talented, and we’re pleased that she’s starting to recognise it. We wish her lots of luck for the future. 



Emily's story

Turning stress into success


Emily 17, was moving into her final year of A’Levels when she was referred to Ride High by the crisis team at MK Hospital. It was a very stressful time, and she was struggling with her mental health and her Tourette syndrome. 

As she nears the end of her Ride High membership, Emily is able to reflect on how her experience has helped her to put things into perspective and to manage her anxieties… “Coming to Ride High has allowed me a couple of hours each week to take my mind of everything, and to focus on something positive. Spending time with the horses has helped calmed me down and my Tourette’s is much better with a big distraction!”

Emily has also made friends at Ride High, and it’s clear to see that she now feels happy and relaxed when she’s with us. She’s taken part in additional trips too and we’re very proud of her for representing Ride High at our Charity Ball. What’s particularly encouraging is how Emily feels just as confident in everyday life now as she does when she’s at Ride High. She tells us how Ride High has helped give her the confidence to plan for the future - and she has just secured herself an unconditional offer to university. “I’m hoping to study psychology and I’d like a career in therapy because it’s really helped me”.

Emily is such a thoughtful member of Ride High. She’s so grateful for having the opportunity to attend and we’re equally grateful for her dedication and determination. Well done Emily!


Watch Emily's video on You Tube to hear more about her Ride High experience. 



Brandon's story

When Brandon bravely told his story at the Ride High Masquerade Ball 2022


“I joined Ride High when I was 10. I felt anxious about school and I worried all night and through the weekend. My confidence and self-esteem were suffering and it made life difficult for me. My CAMHS worker suggested Ride High. Although I was nervous I wanted to join because I like learning new things.

My first lesson was on Coco, who became one of my favourite horses. I love his soft nose and personality. Once I’d built up my confidence I found riding really exciting, specially trotting. My first clubroom project was about George Stubbs. Milton Keynes gallery had an exhibition by Stubbs and we created our own pieces inspired by him. Our work was displayed at the gallery. I was so proud to see my work in the gallery and to realise how much other people thought of it. One of the best things about Ride High was making friends.

We were worried when Covid-19 meant we couldn’t meet up. We didn’t know how long the lockdown was going to be and we missed each other and the horses. To help us, Ride High set up online groups so we could talk. Sometimes there were live sessions in the fields so we could see the horses. They also sent us packs every week until we could go back. I really looked forward to those. I completed all the projects and my family joined in with them some of them too – it was nice to share. Doing my projects made me happy and helped me feel less lonely because I knew there were people all over Milton Keynes doing the same project.

When my time with Ride High ended I took home all my work, a rosette, a certificate and the photos of me riding. Ride High is very important to me, because it helped me so much. Being part of it made me feel connected, welcome and wanted. It’s helped me to feel happy, confident and positive.

I’m 13 now and I’m coping with other challenges, but my time at Ride High helps me manage. These days I worry far less and have ways of coping with anxiety. Ride High gave me something to look forward to and helped me imagine a better future. I will always remember Ride High and feel grateful that I had this chance.”



Rebecca’s story

Sharing success


 "I looked forward to my time with the horses every week. They made me feel calm and like I was in control. Riding made me feel like I was good at something and the adrenaline I felt when trotting or cantering stopped me self-harming. Ride High gave me the motivation to leave my house, which was something I barely did back then. The staff helped me to realise that I wasn’t going to be stuck that way forever and that I could overcome what I was struggling with. I am now entering my second year at University. Ride High helped me to recover and put me on the right path to where I am today."



Emma's story

Aiming High


"I was 14 when I started at Ride High. My school referred me after I'd been emotionally bullied by people who I thought were my friends. It completely destroyed my self-confidence and I became very depressed and anxious.

At Ride High the people and the environment were really friendly and I could tell the horses anything because I knew they would never judge me. Going to Ride High improved my confidence tenfold so much so that I went to a new school for sixth form. Something I thought I could never do. I also learned to manage my anxieties better. I used to worry about every little thing, and I still do sometimes, except now I know how I can deal with how I'm feeling. After I was bullied I felt that I couldn't trust anyone. Ride High taught me how to trust again and that it's important to talk about my problems.

I now have a strong friendship group and have become a more optimistic and confident young woman. My time at Ride High made me realise that I want to work with animals and without it I definitely wouldn't be at Sixth Form doing my A' levels with a view to going to the University of Surrey to study veterinary medicine.

Thank you Ride High!"



Gabby's Story

You see things from a different perspective on a horse's back. I feel privileged to be a part of Ride High.


"I was sixteen when I was referred to Ride High by the Child and Adolescent Mental health department at Milton Keynes general hospital. I'd been under their care for two years for anorexia, depression, anxiety, and OCD. I had hardly been in school during my GCSEs due to exhaustion, stress and anxiety. The hospital referred me to Ride High so I could begin to exercise under controlled conditions that would not be damaging to my health, and to allow me to gain confidence outside the stress of school and effort of recovery.

Eighteen months on and my life has changed. Through caring for the horses, I've learnt that I need to care for myself; there is much more to life than just school work and obsessions over food. The horses are a wonderful comfort. I love to cuddle them and feel their warm breath on my face or riding on a summer evening. You see things from a different perspective on a horse's back.

I met new people and made friends. Having struggled myself made me determined to encourage others to see that they could overcome the obstacles in their lives. I started to see the progress that I was making. How could I be so strong and determined to help others if I did not practice what I preached? This year I am applying for university. It's a huge milestone that many thought my illness would prevent me from reaching. I feel privileged to be a part of Ride High."



Cameron's story

When I first started at Ride High I found the people more intimidating than the horses


Cameron was referred to Ride High by the central PEC in Milton Keynes when he was 14 years old. He had very low confidence and struggled to speak to anyone. The school were concerned about his future, especially in terms of finding employment.

Rachel Medill, founder of Ride High, worked with Cameron when he first arrived at Ride High. He wouldn't pick up a pencil. He wouldn't look anyone in the eye and refused to take part in activities. His first response to everything was no.

Cameron remembers, "When I first started at Ride High I found the people more intimidating than the horses.

I remember arriving at my Ride High sessions feeling bad, but I always left in a good mood. Just being around the horses made me feel so much better. My favourite horse was Quincy. I absolutely loved him. He's a Norwegian Fjord pony so he's got a really cool mane.

I managed to talk to the Club Leader a little bit, and eventually I started to feel better around the other children in my group. My biggest challenge was the trip to Badminton Horse Trials. There were so many people there, such big crowds of strangers, but I really enjoyed it".

Rachel remembers, "As we walked around the stalls and displays at Badminton he started to speak to the stallholders. He was asking questions of strangers and I couldn't quite believe it! It was a massive step forward for him".

In summer 2014 Cameron finished his course in Animal Care, Levels 1 & 2, at Moulton College: "We had to do a presentation in front of the whole class. It was terrifying but I managed it. I wouldn't have been able to do it without Ride High because we did lots of activities where we had to talk in front of other people and work in teams".

"Because of Ride High I am more confident at talking to new people and am able to be myself around them. Without Ride High I don't think I would ever have gone to college and made new friends. I'm still in touch with some of them today. My life has changed so much because of Ride High."



Cherilyn’s Story

For the first time in my life I felt proud of who I was and what I had become because of Ride High


"When I first joined Ride High I was just 14. I had absolutely no confidence; I couldn't interact with other children or adults. Horses were my favourite animal. I wanted to learn so much more about them. When I got told I was going to learn to ride and spend time with horses I was over the moon!

It was such an amazing experience as different horses have their own personality. I learnt a lot at Ride High that I will never forget. Trips out were so much fun and I was able to be a part of the fundraising helping the charity. It felt nice to help the charity which has helped me in so many ways.

In 2011 I was an ambassador at the Ride High Ball with over 300 guests. I was interviewed by Jeremy Vine and felt really confident. For the first time I felt proud of who I was and who I had become with the help of Ride High.

I struggled with meeting new people but Ride High introduced me to some amazing and friendly people who I have become great friends with." 



Caitlin's story

My favourite thing


"I was 16 when I was first referred by CAMHS to Ride High mainly to help escape from my intrusive thoughts. Being such a high risk to myself, I wasn't allowed to be alone. Therefore I stayed with my mum 24/7. Ride High gave me that alone time.

I've always had a love for animals but Ride High brought out my love for them even more. My favourite thing would be to come see the horses each week whilst getting such amazing support from the staff there. I was offered space when I needed it, someone to talk to when I needed it and I was even given one of my favourite pony's shoes the day I left which I will keep forever. I spent two years at Ride High and in that time my confidence grew more than it had before, I finally found something I loved in life and my little world didn't seem so dark anymore.

I left Ride High about a year ago but I haven't stopped horsing around! I am well into my recovery and I now fully loan my dream gelding who I ride dressage competitively on and has taught me to jump 3ft without any fear. I wouldn't have been able to do it without Ride High. Thanks to the charity I am myself again with a bonus new best friend!"

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