A PIONEERING course which uses horses to prevent prisoners from re-offending is being introduced to the North-East.

Founded by Harriet Laurie in 2010, the HorseCourse uses specially trained horses to help violent offenders change their behaviour.

The course began at Portland Young Offender Institution, in Dorset, where it was found to be three times better than any other form of rehabilitation currently on offer.

A study by Professor Rosie Meek, from The Royal Holloway University of London, found that a year after being released, re-offending among participants on the course was 44 per cent – a drop of nearly 20 per cent from their predicted figures.

She also found the course resulted in a 168 per cent increase in positive behaviour in prison, and a drop of more than 70 per cent in negative behaviour.

Following its pilot in Dorset, North-East horse trainer Laura Dixon hopes to replicate the course's success in the region with her specially trained horses, 15-year-old Mak and three-year-old Winnie.

The 34-year-old of Middleton St George, Darlington, teaches the Parelli System, which was founded in the US more than 20 years ago and aims to build a better relationship of trust with the horse.

She said: “The results of the course are amazing. The HorseCourse been accepted down in the South-West so we are trying to get it accepted elsewhere in the country.”

The HorseCourse helps participants to take responsibility for their own actions, to be calm in difficult situations, to have the confidence to take on new challenges, to work towards goals despite setbacks and to be assertive without getting aggressive or upset.

It also encourages people to have empathy and to be respectful.

“People naturally respect horses. They are sensitive and can be very easily upset so you have got to respect them,” said Miss Dixon.

“People fall in love with the horses during the course and they do not want to upset them.

“The course brings out qualities in people like calmness and patience and helps people to believe in themselves.”

The course has also been successful in helping children with behavioural problems and mental health issues.

Miss Dixon is looking for prisons, school or early intervention teams who may be interested in running a pilot scheme to get in touch by emailing lauradixon1979@hotmail.com