Horses for People included on the UK Human Equine Interaction Register 2022-23

Horses for People included on the UK Human Equine Interaction Register 2022-23

Horses for People has been approved for inclusion on the UK Human Equine Interaction Register 2022-2023


We have satisfactorily provided evidence of working to the following criteria:


Professionalism: competence to practice and commitment to professional development.

Equine Welfare: high equine welfare and management standards.

Service Provision and Service User Engagement: communication of services and the potential benefits.

Benefits and Impact: professional reflection of the benefits and impact of the service being provided.

Governance: sufficient management and governance structures in place.

A Visionary Approach: Thoroughbred Assisted

Horses for People - Why Horses?
Our Seamus, enjoying his paddock at Horses for People. Photo: Daria Fidgeon


For the last 6 months, Horses for People at Ballygraffan have undertaken a ground-breaking project to retrain ex-racehorses for equine therapy work.

The pilot was initiated by thoroughbred charity, Racing to Relate in conjunction with Down Royal Corporation of Horsebreeders to provide alternative careers for thoroughbred horses once their racing career has ceased.

The pilot is a truly collaborative approach, contributing data towards an international PhD with the University of Bristol, UCD, The John Pearce Foundation, The Childwick Trust and The Sir Peter O’Sullivan Charitable Trust. The aim of the data collection and study is to produce an evidence base for a global standard to optimise the progression of a racehorse towards a new career.

Having recently completed her Equine Management degree at CAFRE, Daria Fidgeon was selected for a 6 month placement to monitor the racehorses as they progressed through their retraining. An added bonus was that Daria is a gifted photographer so as well as collecting the data, she complied a beautiful phot library of all the horses.

Horses for People have worked with four ex-racehorses over the six month programme and although all have very different personalities, all of the horses have successfully progressed through the programme. Our Seamus, Elusive Time and Drumboy will continue with equine therapy careers whilst Nouhime has got many options because being young, bright, kind, sound and full of energy, she could have a happy and successful ridden career.

For more information, visit the recent article in Irish Field.

A Visionary Approach: Thoroughbred Assisted
Elusive Time Photo courtesy of Daria Fidgeon

Bouncing Back To The Workplace Starts At The Top

We all know that the workplace has changed dramatically since the onset of Covid 19 and the resulting challenges to our mental and physical health have undoubtedly increased both in the degree of the negative impact and the variety and number of people affected.

It has taken its toll on everyone at every level in an organisation and a combination of altered working environment, lack of contact, isolation and financial uncertainty and have added to the well-publicised and universal stresses.

Whilst lockdown created very specific problems for companies and staff, the return-to-work process is where we will potentially see the greatest challenge as furloughed workers and those working from home undergo the transition back to at least some semblance of pre-covid working habits – all whilst carrying lockdown-related personal issues.

This was one of the areas June Burgess discussed with HRH The Duchess of Cornwall on her recent visit to Horses for People. Her Royal Highness was very interested in how Horses for People are helping Directors and business-people prepare for the resulting challenges of getting back into the workplace and normalising business practices again.

Bouncing Back To The Workplace Starts At The Top 2
Heather White, meeting HRH and discussing the benefits of Horses for People Leadership and Wellbeing Training IOD Branch Manager – Northern Ireland & North West England.
Courtesy of Neil Harrison Photography

Horses for People have developed workshops to address the challenge on two fronts.

Firstly, similar to the ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’ analogy, Directors must address their own wellbeing and adjustment first. They cannot lead and facilitate recovery of a team, who are rebounding from a negative situation, from a place of personal instability. They must acknowledge the challenges that they have faced and recalibrate to be capable of delivering the leadership qualities their people need.
It requires developing new skills on top of their existing business skills.

Secondly, it is imperative for Directors to reinvigorate the self-belief of staff before de-motivating habits develop. The lack of connection that inevitably results from working from home can be a recipe for lethargy and reduced confidence. It stifles collaborative creativity.
Revitalising self-esteem and self-confidence will be the priority over the coming months.
In fact, it will be the most important tool in their leadership toolbox because people with good confidence and self-esteem will be capable of hitting the ground running and bounce back higher, benefitting colleagues and the company.

Having a strong equestrian background, The Duchess of Cornwall was impressed by the innovative approach at Horses for People but totally understood the merits of the workshops aimed at improving wellbeing and reducing burn-out, the benefits of which ultimately ripple out to create a more collaborative and productive environment for everyone in the workplace at all levels.

Horses for People - Horse Assisted Workshops
CEO and Founder of Caram, Cara Macklin explains to HRH Duchess of Cornwall how she benefitted from developing her leadership skills on a Horses for People workshop.
Courtesy of Neil Harrison Photography

Of course, there is a very simple yet effective ingredient that adds to the effectiveness of Horses for People workshops – the location is idyllic and immediately upon arrival, stress disappears.

This isn’t about surviving Covid – this is about bouncing back higher than ever and Horses for People offer one and one and a half day workshops for corporate groups and individuals to develop and practice the skills necessary for Bouncing Back to The Workplace.


Horses for People with Camilla
Courtesy of Neil Harrison Photography
Bouncing Back To The Workplace Starts At The Top
Heather White, meeting HRH and discussing the benefits of Horses for People Leadership and Wellbeing Training IOD Branch Manager – Northern Ireland & North West England
Courtesy of PressEye

Developing leadership skills that inspire others to follow

Best known for building Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast and establishing it during the last recession, June Burgess has been Director of several successful companies during her 25 years in business and is no stranger to leading an organisation through uncertain times.

Since selling the Hotel in 2015, she has focussed on developing her innovative leadership training where she brings together the three main strands of her life – her business experience, her equestrian experience (she competed for Ireland over 60 times and produced the bronze medal winning horse at Rio Olympics) and her many years of implementing sports psychology techniques that enabled her to compete as an amateur against professionals – and win!

Her approach is rather different to the norm in that it involves a series of interactions with her team of world class horses. Equine Assisted Leadership (EAL)


Through a series of ground-based exercises (no riding required), the participants are required to apply certain skills and the response from the horses provides totally accurate feedback on how clear and effective their personal leadership qualities are. Participants not only discover more about themselves but also how they are perceived by others. Once this is established, each individual has the opportunity to alter their approach and test the result. Whilst this is totally new in NI, similar programs for corporate leadership and team building have been mainstream in the US for years and are growing in Europe and the UK. Many of the largest UK companies find this approach to leadership training extremely effective including CISCO, Warehouse, American Express, Hilton, Bupa, BBC, Citigroup, to name just a few. June has been travelling to Amsterdam each year to work with Philips who are advocates of this type of training. Even the All Blacks have undertaken leadership development with horses!


Horses for People - Developing leadership skills
Developing leadership skills that inspire others to follow


With their prey instincts and hypersensitive awareness, horses size people up instantly and accurately and provide honest, accurate feedback, completely unaffected by role or position.
They respond immediately to signals both intentional and unintentional, creating experiences which get to the core of issues quickly, powerfully and effectively.

Interacting with horses at liberty demands the same personal qualities that make for effective communication and relationships in work and life – awareness, clarity, focus, intention, problem solving, credibility, connection, commitment, respect and trust. As extremely canny herd animals, horses only respond well to congruent leadership and instinctively challenge weak leaders.
Human-to-human communication is 93% non-verbal yet most education and training concentrates on what is being said – the 7%. Horses are adept at picking up and responding to human intention and non-verbal communication. They don’t understand words, so you can’t smooth-talk, cajole, guilt-trip or hoodwink them. And they’re big and powerful, so intimidation is not an option.
Working alongside a horse, in spite of any fears, generates confidence and provides insight for dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in business and life.


Horses for People is located at June’s home – a private horse farm in Comber, 20 mins from Belfast on a 50 acre site known as Ballygraffan in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with views over Strangford Lough.
Living in such a relaxing environment and surrounded by horses and wildlife has always been June’s secret weapon in tackling stress and maintaining a balanced perspective on life and business.
Thus, in addition to transformational personal insights, individuals who attend workshops, which run over one or two days, are able to step away from daily stresses and relax and recharge in peaceful surroundings.

Ballygraffan, N. Ireland


Leaders don’t fail because they haven’t enough theory. They struggle because they don’t get the opportunity to develop and practice the skills that make them more effective. At Horses for People, participants come face to face with their leadership challenges through engaging with the horses and are coached to overcome them and then the changes they make are reflected back by the improved reactions from the horses.They also learn a great deal by watching how the horses communicate with each other and interact as a herd.
With that in mind, the majority of the course takes place outdoors in an all-weather arena with the horses but we also have an indoor conference room for post-exercise discussions. Standard group size is 8 people for a one-day workshop and social distancing measures are in place.
The emphasis is on transferring all learnings directly to the workplace but previous participants have commented that the skills acquired have been equally beneficial in other aspects of life and relationships.
June is a certified Life Coach (ICF) and full member and partner of EAHAE – international accreditation for HAL. She has studied HAL in USA, Germany and England and was recognised by the Joint Armed Forces Soldiering On Awards in 2018 for her leadership courses.



A Visionary Approach: Thoroughbred Assisted

Helen Sharp explores the ground-breaking pilot project in Northern Ireland focusing on off-track thoroughbreds.

Horses for People - Why Horses?
Former National Hunt thoroughbred Our Seamus relaxing in his paddock at Horses for People, home of the ground-breaking Thoroughbred Assisted pilot scheme \ Daria Fidgeon

A PILOT initiated by pioneering thoroughbred charity Racing to Relate is underway in Northern Ireland in collaboration with Down Royal Corporation of Horsebreeders and June Burgess of Horses for People at Ballgraffan Stables. This is the first pilot from Racing to Relate’s international Thoroughbred Assisted programme underpinning their vision for thoroughbred welfare beyond racing.


Racing to Relate has pioneered an international-first through a collaborative research PhD with the University of Bristol with funding from The John Pearce Foundation, The Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust and The Childwick Trust. The PhD is titled, The Selection and Education of Former Racehorses (Thoroughbreds) for Equine Assisted Therapy: Developing the Evidence Base for a Global Standard. Professor Siobhan Mullan of Animal Welfare and Veterinary Ethics at UCD and will supervise the PhD: “Thoroughbred horses involved in Equine Assisted Therapy programmes are performing a really valuable role in society and yet little formal research has been done to understand how to optimise their welfare throughout their transition from racehorse to therapy horse and in the course of their new career.”


Racing to Relate is endorsed by Horse Racing Ireland and the British Horseracing Authority amongst others. Represented by Molly McClusky, Down Royal Corporation of Horsebreeders co-fund the pilot and Molly comments: “The field of Equine Assisted Services is starting to grow in Northern Ireland, and the benefits of these activities when undertaken in a safe, regulated and sustainable manner are incredible for both the horses and humans involved.”

Down Royal Corporation of Horsebreeders is a unique entity offering support to the thoroughbred breeding and horseracing industry within Northern Ireland. From its previous base at Down Royal Racecourse, the Corporation transformed racing in Northern Ireland, bringing Grade 1 National Hunt racing and blacktype flat racing to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Pilot

The pilot follows the retraining of five thoroughbreds for use in Equine Assisted Services overseen by June Burgess and student placement Daria Fidgeon. June evented for Ireland in over 60 international competitions and at the British Eventing Championships. In 2019 June was recognised in the Armed Forces Soldiering On Awards for her work with veterans suffering from PTSD. Daria recently completed a BSc Hons in Equine Management at CAFRE and has worked at Gigginstown House Stud and will move to her new position at Coolmore Stud after the pilot.


The concept of the thoroughbred being given a second chance resonates particularly well with the veterans attending workshops at Ballygraffan. June’s work with veterans has been recognised as leading the way for best practice in Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning. Northern Ireland is a unique setting to be doing this work, which the Irish Military Heritage Foundation recognised during their visit with June this week. Danny Kinahan, the Veteran Commissioner for Northern Ireland, also in attendance, selected the Horses for People programme as he has witnessed first-hand the impact the work has on the veteran community in Northern Ireland. Kinahan can see the benefits June and her team can deliver to veterans throughout the island of Ireland.

Horses for People

“Thoroughbred Assisted pulls together everything that Horses for People is about.” explains June. “It is our duty to look after our horses, not only whilst they are competing, but once they have reached the end of their careers. But it’s not just our moral obligation: thoroughbreds add a new level of responsiveness to equine therapy. They are sensitive, curious, and expressive, precisely what I am looking for in my workshops.” PhD study The pilot data collected daily at Ballgraffan is fed back to the University of Bristol to form part of the more exhaustive

PhD study

At the end of the retraining programme, any thoroughbreds who prove to be more suited for a career other than one in Equine Asssited Services, will be supported in further training with agreed partners. It is hoped that in the future, the pilot outcomes will also help inform an academic module at CAFRE for the retraining of racehorses for use in Equine Assisted Services.

The Thoroughbreds

The horses have been at Ballygraffan for a few months and are well-settled. Elusive Time is 13 years old and won the 2017 Irish Cambridgeshire and five-year-old flat-bred mare Nouhime is recently off-track. Successful nine-year-old National Hunt gelding Our Seamus is also recently off track and has had kissing spine surgery. The latest addition, a gelding called Drummer, retired from racing in 2012 and went on to a second career as an eventer before entering the pilot.

25 minutes of your help

As part of the PhD project the Thoroughbred Assisted team at Bristol University is surveying organisations involved in Equine Assisted Therapy about their experiences and practices. If you are involved in Equine Assisted Therapy, Racing to Relate needs your help through an online survey. The online survey takes approximately 25 minutes. To access the survey online, simply scan the code above or visit the website at

How Horse Therapy has been helping healthcare staff to think outside the box

Horses for People - Why Horses?

It’s not the first thing that jumps to mind when considering a therapy for our times, but the horse-assisted workshops of June Burgess – a former Ireland three-day-eventer and ex-owner of Belfast’s Fitzwilliam hotel – have been helping care staff cope with their workload. Gail Bell finds out more…

Gail Bell 18 June, 2020 01:00 – Original Article – Irish News

Care-home worker Amy Moore gave horse therapy a go while staying at June Burgess’s Co Down in order to protect her family members during the lockdown.

WHOEVER would have thought it, but horses are helping with a radical recovery of confidence and calmness as people venture slowly into the outside world again.

Not quite a horse whisperer but something close, June Burgess of equine therapy initiative Horses for People, located outside Comber, Co Down, can certainly read the body language of her stable of helpers, from a donkey right up to an ex-Household Cavalry charger.

“There just isn’t one-size-fits-all in the horsey world as well as the human, and people who come to our horse-assisted workshops may feel more comfortable starting with the donkey or pony before working their way up to one of the larger horses,” says June, who has been helping care workers and others find some inner peace during the Covid-19 crisis.

She has 14 ‘therapy’ horses in total (including the donkey and pony) all of which play their part in the ground-based exercises – no riding is involved – and aimed at helping people who might be feeling overwhelmed or struggling in life for different reasons.

Horses for People - Why Horses?

“It’s basically a coaching approach to the problems in life, only with horses,” explains June, an ex-mentor to the Ulster Rugby team and former three-day eventer, representing Ireland more than 60 times. “I did hang up my boots competitively, but I’m having a big come-back,” hints the 54 year-old, for whom horses have been a constant, reassuring presence, even through previous jobs which have included landscape architect, property developer and life coach. But, with Horses for People, it is the first time her passion and career have conveniently collided, the idea first taking root following a trip to America seven years ago for a video summit about people “doing revolutionary things” in the horsey world.

Care worker Shannon Templeton at June’s Ballygraffan farm, overlooking Strangford Lough “I discovered equine therapy and was simply blown away by it,” says the woman behind the development of the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast, a project she started with her husband, Jim, and ran successfully for several years. “There were people in America using horses for everything from working with first responders, to people who are stressed, to working with GPs who are having trouble connecting with patients, right through to those who are dependent on drugs or in prison looking for rehabilitation approaches, to veterans suffering from post traumatic stress – that’s an area I have done a lot of work in since I set this up six years ago.

“After seeing it in action, I decided to train in equine therapy myself. I trained with a guy in America, although I obtained my qualification and licence in London – so the therapy has been in the UK for a while – the Priory Centre, for example, outside London, has a whole centre dedicated to horse therapy.” Having said that, she admits it is still a little out of the mainstream for many Northern Ireland people, although this past while, especially during lockdown, the horse-assisted workshops have been gathering up a steady base of new fans spanning all ages and backgrounds.

Horses for People - Why Horses?

Kirsty Moore – ‘I learned a lot about myself as a person’ Among them have been three health-care workers who have been bunking down at the guest accommodation at June’s farm at Ballygraffan, overlooking Strangford Lough, in order to protect their family members back home in Newtownards.

Kirsty Moore, her sister Amy, and colleague Shannon Templeton, all care workers at Blair House Care Home, Newtownards, have all been staying at Ballygraffan but, at June’s invitation, decided to give the horse therapy a try-out themselves. Decidedly “non-horsey”, apart from Shannon who had some long-forgotten childhood riding lessons until she got “spooked”, the three were sceptical at first, but, by the end of the workshop, had dramatically changed their perspective.

“We haven’t stopped talking about it since,” enthuses Kirsty (22), who, along with older sister Amy (25) have been staying away from their mum who has been sheltering due to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). “With everything going on, work has been quite stressful, so I was interested to find out how equine therapy might help. I was absolutely petrified at the beginning, but the first exercise was simply to introduce myself to the horse – or, in my case, the donkey, which wasn’t quite as intimidating. “It sounds ridiculous, but until this workshop, I never really thought about how horses and people are so alike when it comes to trust and respect. I learned a lot about myself as a person and how I needed to think ‘outside the box’ at times and try a different approach to things.

“I particularly loved the breathing exercise which we did with the horses – it was so relaxing, I nearly fell asleep.” In Shannon’s case, she felt her confidence grow, as trust was steadily built with her horse, ‘Maurice’. “I made a real connection with my horse and it gives a real feeling of empowerment when you can make a powerful, half-tonne, intelligent, intuitive animal run or trot around the arena (without a rope) or change direction, at your command. “Then, at the end, it is totally surreal when the relationship is bedded in to the extent that the horse will follow you. It is quite emotional. What I took away from the workshop was the need, just as horses do so easily, to switch off – or, in horse language, go back to ‘grazing’.

Amy was similarly impressed and learned much more than she had anticipated – about the horses, about herself and, importantly, about how to cope differently with situations as they arise. “I really didn’t think anything was going to happen – but so much happened,” she says. “I think more now before I act.” All this wide-eyed wonderment comes as no surprise to June who has been in tune with horses since she was seven and knows exactly how encouraging them to cooperate and follow instructions helps form good leadership skills, clarity and focus.

“You are demonstrating good leadership techniques and if you’re clear, the horse will choose to follow you,” she says. “Horses are always looking for a leader and they would rather it was you than them.” In addition to corporate clients and damaged veterans, more and more “ordinary” people are seeing the benefits of eyeballing a horse and picking up the nuances of its hidden language. So, is this a new, naturally socially distanced alternative therapy for our times?

“It’s pretty mainstream in America and is becoming more so in Europe, but I’ve only really started to speak to the medical profession here, but the GPs – and one a consultant, actually – who have come through privately, have been very supportive.

“At the moment, I think everyone is feeling overwhelmed, just by the situation we’re all in, but working it out with horses really does help – and you will get some insights into your own personality, as well.”

Horses for People - Why Horses?

Irish military heritage foundation come to Ballygraffan

Horses for People were honoured to be selected to represent veteran support services in NI by hosting a visit from Irish Military Heritage Foundation. Attended by the NI Veterans Commissioner, Danny Kinahan and his team and the main organiser, Liz Brown and her team from the NI Veterans’ Support Office (VSO), many past participants from the Back to Grazing workshops at Horses for People attended to demonstrate some of the exercises undertaken during their workshop and to explain the benefits that they had received.

Horses for People - Ireland's Military Story
NI Veterans’ Commissioner, Danny Kinahan with Maurice.
Photos courtesy of Ireland’s Military Story

The Northern Ireland Veteran Commissioners Office (NIVCO) and the VSO work collaboratively for the representation and delivery support of services to veterans. The VSO are the lead support and signposting service linking individual veterans, veterans’ groups and their families to available support.

It was a beautiful day for filming and June Burgess explained for the cameras how Horses for People run Equine Assisted Learning workshops focussed on building confidence, self-esteem, resilience and more harmonious relationships. Working closely with Inspire Wellbeing, Horses for People has had particular success with veterans suffering from mental health problems through equine therapy.

Horses for People - Irish military heritage foundation come to Ballygraffan

The Irish Military Heritage Foundation created the Ireland’s leading military history channel, Ireland’s Military story which brings to life Ireland’s colourful and complex military past and focusses on the personal aspects.

The Foundation were so impressed with the participant’s stories, the setting and the demonstration that they have asked to return to Ballygraffan in the spring to record a full-length programme about the benefits of the Back to Grazing programme.

Horses for People - Ireland's Military Story 2

The Duchess of Cornwall sees the value of horsepower as her visit to Northern Ireland comes to an end

The Duchess of Cornwall wrapped up her two-day visit to Northern Ireland with a visit to an equine therapy charity. At Horses for People, Camilla met its founder, June Burgess, and senior staff and horses, and those currently taking workshops.

According to Clarence House, Horses for People has been running workshops since 2013 to help people with stress, to team build at their workplaces, and to increase resiliency. Participants learn about themselves and others and how to process their feelings, behaviours and patterns,” per Clarence House.

“We work with people so that they can experience the power within themselves and apply that to their career and life,” reads the description on the charity’s official website.

June was inspired to start the charity after she “discovered that many others had recognised the mental and physical benefits of this combination, with horses as faciliators and that particularly in USA, Horse Assisted Coaching and Equine Assisted Learning was widely recognised as an effective approach for corporate leadership training and life skills.”

Horses for Peoples’s equine therapy workshop works to introduce activities that will require participants to exercise certain skills including non-verbal communication, creative thinking, problem solving, trust-building, and assertiveness. The workshops aim to teach participants more about themselves, “their behaviours and their reactions and discovering how they can stand in their own power and thrive regardless of challenges or circumstances.”

The charity’s website notes that many of its equine therapy clients are veterans who need support in re-adjusting to civilian society, and, since the coronavirus pandemic began, care workers.

The horses are mostly former competitors who’ve travelled throughout the UK and Europe, and “are now taking life easier but enjoy the workshops almost as much as their competitive days.”

Before leaving, Camilla viewed a demonstration at the lunging pen and saw a horse being shod.

Bouncing Back To The Workplace Starts At The Top
Heather White, meeting HRH and discussing the benefits of Horses for People Leadership and Wellbeing Training IOD Branch Manager – Northern Ireland & North West England
Courtesy of PressEye