MUM and daughter team Sandra Kreutzer-Brett and Sarah Shearman joined forces to help autistic Japanese teenagers improve their communication skills - using horses and body language.

Following a trip to Japan earlier this year, the pair invited students and their parents to visit Ellershaw House, a residential centre near Masham, North Yorkshire, run by Sandra, which offers equine therapy for young people with special needs.

Three Japanese teenagers, along with their parents and two riding instructors, arrived from Tokyo and Kanagawa for a week, visiting some of the area’s beauty spots once training was complete.

Sandra, a Riding for the Disabled Association instructor who has been to Japan seven times in 14 years, said: “A horse communicates. It doesn’t hold an agenda, it doesn’t tell lies – it gives instant feedback.

“Working with the horses gave us a wonderful opportunity to include not only young people, but their parents, and that’s extremely important. Having a child on the autistic spectrum can put strain on both mum and dad. A visit like this takes off that pressure and allows them to have fun and work together as a family.”

She was joined by Sarah, founder of Learning to Listen which specialises in communications training for those with special needs and the corporate sector.

She said: "A horse’s body language – a flick of the tail, a twitch of the ears, tense muscles – speaks loud and clear, and helps us to understand what each student is going through.”

One of the Japanese instructors, Masako Nakata, described the visit as “wonderful and fantastic” and added: “It’s like a dream to be here because people and horses respect one another. I can see how they all relate – instructors, riders, families and horses.”