Evaluation & Outcomes

Evaluation of our activities
Evaluation of our service is integral to our work and is rooted in the research background of founder Dr Hannah Burgon’s PhD research (Burgon, H, ‘Equine-Assisted Therapy and Learning with At-Risk Young People’, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). We believe that both qualitative and quantitative approaches are equally valid in capturing our outcomes, and so strive to collect both statistical evidence as well as ‘soft’ outcomes.


Our Outcomes

We work with over 100 vulnerable and disadvantaged young people and adults each year to support them to build key resilience factors, and so improve life outcomes. We follow a co-production approach where participants help set their own goals.

Benefits from attending our programmes include;

Increased self-confidence and self-esteem

Improved mental health and well-being

Increased calmness and ability to regulate behaviour

Improved communication skills and relationships

Increased self-awareness and empathy to others

Increased ability to focus and stick at tasks

Learning new skills leading to employment and further education opportunities

Better physical health – which is also linked to improved mental health

Reason for referral


2020 Research evaluation project with Hartpury University
In 2020 Sirona developed a research partnership with Hartpury University to evaluate our equine-assisted programmes. Utilising both qualitative and quantitative analysis, the programmes at Sirona were found to significantly increase participants pre and post self-assessment well-being scores over a range of indicators by 68.5% (Wilcoxon signed rank: P=0.0005).

The results of the research study of 124 young people over 2 years showed that the young people had improved in all five areas assessed: confidence, calmness, communication, resilience and positivity. Read full report here.

Wilcoxon signed ranks test results for the 5 well-being measures

Participants scored themselves between 1 and 10 for the 5 variables before and after a 12-week course of equine-assisted therapy or learning sessions. This table shows the scoring was higher after each variable.

Qualitative feedback
Alongside quantitative evaluation of our provision, we regularly collect qualitative feedback from participants who are involved in all aspects of our data collection, from questionnaire design and dissemination.

Feedback from our participants includes;

“When I’m at Sirona I feel like I can be who I want to be, I can wear what I want, look how I want and I won’t get judged for who I am. Its’ like another safe place to go”

“I feel calmer and able to communicate better since coming to Sirona. I do not feel scared of expressing how I feel or who I truly am now.”

“Everything I did in life felt bad. I felt like a lost lipstick in a bag. Coming to Sirona made me feel found, like the bag was opened and there I was.”

“I would love to say how much this horse means to me. Chapas has helped me through all the rough times and has helped my confidence so so much”.

“the horses make me feel calm and positive and I can speak to them about my feelings or anything else”.

“I feel different when I’m with the horses. I have ADHD so I’m like a driven motor, but when I’m with the horses I can actually breathe and think’

‘The horses at Sirona – and Ginger, Elsie, Foxy (dogs and cat) really help me feel relaxed and calm. So when I go to school afterwards I can just get on with my work. I want more time at Sirona – at least 2 hours!”.

Referrer and parent/carer feedback

“G started talking about his emotions, opening up and expressing strong feelings after his very first session. Prior to that he had been very closed and communicative”.

“My child and I see Sirona as a lifeline, particularly in these difficult times. Sirona makes all the difference to my child’s wellbeing and education, which in turn also benefits his wider family”

“F is absolutely loving her placement at Sirona and it represents a beacon of light in an otherwise quite dark time for her. We hope that F can continue at Sirona for as long as possible! ; ). Thank you all for your care, hard work and dedication. Emma is a perfect support for F with her gentle, calm, reassuring presence”

“She has been able to take part whilst another young person is having her session with another therapist and has been out on a walk with them with the ponies as a group. This would never have happened 6 months ago”.

“He’s going to school after his session now. I think we are going to have to get him a horse! To see him take to something this much is amazing and we can’t ignore that!”

“We have found Charlotte to be an amazing teacher for B, supportive of everything B does, had reignited B’s faith in people. Sirona has helped our family in a huge way when B had no schooling for four years. Amazing”.

“Sirona has made such a difference to L, from a very angry young lady not able to access learning she has now become attuned to her feelings, able to regulate and projects as a happy, confident young lady”.

Case studies

Sarah’s Story…
Sarah first started at Sirona when she was 15yrs old and had been unable to attend school due to severe anxiety. Following her referral and subsequent engagement at Sirona, Sarah progressed through our equine-assisted therapy sessions onto the Level 1 Diploma in Horse Care course, then work experience and finally volunteer. During her journey at Sirona Sarah was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Condition. Sarah is now at university and comes back to volunteer at Sirona during the holidays.

“I first came to Sirona for therapeutic horsemanship sessions when I was struggling a lot at school with stress. I had been school refusing for two years by then and I had been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. The first time I visited the yard I felt happy and welcome and I made an instant connection with a horse called Rosie.

I started regular sessions and felt the difference very quickly, it helped my confidence enormously and gave me something to get up for. I soon realised that I always wanted to go to Sirona even if I was feeling bad because the horses never asked anything of me. I didn’t have to feel a certain way for them to still want me there. It was so much better than traditional therapy in a stuffy office sitting across from someone who asked lots of uncomfortable questions, I always felt worse after sessions like that. Sirona made me feel better. I always came home with a smile on my face.

The sessions at Sirona really helped relieve the stress of studying in sixth form. After I finished school I decided to start the Level 1 Diploma in Horse Care at Sirona. After finishing the Diploma I was offered the chance of a regular work experience placement at Sirona and I jumped at the chance to spend a whole day working at the yard! I felt comfortable and happy there, and working with the horses gave me confidence in myself.

In September I will be moving to London to start a degree course at University and I’m so excited! I’m going to miss Sirona. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of everyone (human and animal!) at Sirona and I couldn’t be more grateful for what they’ve done for me”.


Ben’s Story…

Ben had been taken into foster care at a young age. He was 13yrs old when he first started at Sirona and was referred due to struggling emotionally and with his behaviour with his adoptive parents and at school. After initially attending our therapeutic sessions, Ben then returned after a break to complete the Level 1 Diploma in Horse Care. Ben also returned for short sessions of equine-assisted therapy at various times when he experienced difficult times during his childhood. He then went on to Bicton College to study horse care and progressed onto an apprenticeship at a local racing yard. Ben recently wrote to give us this update on his journey at Sirona.

“My experience at Sirona was life changing. When I first started I will admit I was sad and angry at the world and didn’t know what to do, but when interacting with the horses it made me realise that I was not alone and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I made great attachments to the horses and people working there and I am forever grateful”.

As a consequence of being at Sirona I am now working at a racing yard and hopefully off to Newmarket Racing School next December”.