Social Licence in Action: Work like a Horse

15. Apr 2022 / Category: News

The term ‘social licence’ is now a central term in much of the EEF’s work. But what does it mean, and how can you gain social licence in practical ways? In these case studies, we will showcase examples from our member nations of how the horse can achieve wider social goals, and enhance the role the equestrian industry plays in society


Work like a Horse is an initiative based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, with a central aim to provide support and experiences for children through the unique characteristics of horses. Focusing on children with mental and physical disabilities, as well as children with difficult home lives, the Work like a Horse programme follows one philosophy: “whatever your situation if you work like a horse, you can accomplish a lot”.


First founded in 2014 by Fred Rozendaal, the programme works to provide new and inspiring experiences for children. The founders recognise there are a range of social issues affecting a large number of children within the city and believe that by working with horses they can help alleviate some of these problems. Focusing on younger children, the programme offers a range of experiences designed to “enlarge the world” and inspire the children who largely grow up in challenging or difficult home environments.


The project is run through the charity foundation, Stichting Trustfonds Hippische Alliantie Rotterdam, which helps in the overall setup and distribution of funds to maximise the work of the project.

Horses, and horse riding, have often carried a stereotype of being an activity only available to a certain social class, or those able to afford it. Programmes like this break down those barriers and bring the horse into a much more accessible place, whilst demonstrating their amazing ability to connect with humans and bring about personal development. The Work like a Horse programme has developed core ideas that incorporate the horse. The first is a summer school in which children gain a fully immersive equine experience. Many of the children in attendance have never been around horses before and have few opportunities through their home life to leave the city. By spending time outside with the animals, they are introduced to new ways of living and the important subtle communication that horses desire from us. The charity then also supports therapeutic riding lessons for children with physical and mental disabilities, and the studies show a huge improvement in speech development, coordination, and personal characteristics such as confidence and decision making. In addition, the Work like a Horse “after school” programme includes over 35 excursions which include horse riding lessons and horse mirroring lessons so the horse is truly central to the project’s work.

Expanding away from the horses physically, the programme then applies the mentality of “work like a horse” to provide additional inspirational experiences for children through work experience and job shadowing, through to physical exercise using a mini, on-foot show jumping course.


The programme operates through a series of local partnerships. A local riding school with existing riding for the disabled skills was partnered with a special needs school and the first children were taken on the Work like a Horse journey. This approach was then expanded through the school network in Rotterdam to identify the children who could most benefit from the programme and create a fair system that maximises the opportunities for the children. This coordination of local partnerships could be adapted and utilised across other European countries to develop similar schemes.


The programme is funded through private sponsorships and fundraising, which during the recent covid-19 pandemic made for a particularly difficult period. Despite the restrictions on activities, Work like a Horse continued in its mission and recognising the implications that lock-downs and school closures placed on vulnerable children, successfully ran socially distanced and covid-safe experiences. The need to maintain funding sources is one of the most pressing issues for the programme and its partnership with CHIO Rotterdam plays an important role in introducing the programme to a range of potential business partners.


Work like a Horse has had both a physical presence at the event, with information stands and the mini childrens jumping course on site, but also engages from partnerships with several of the show’s sponsors to provide long-term monetary support for the programmes. The CHIO Rotterdam has a strong partnership structure and runs year-round business club opportunities for networking which is an important forum for Work like a Horse to promote its mission. In 2019, Rotterdam hosted the European Championships and this provided an opportunity to expand the Work like a Horse Special Education projects and engage even more children and create a lasting legacy from the championships. These partnerships between social enterprises and top sport provide wide benefits to the event organisers as they are able to create unique partnership opportunities that help businesses achieve social responsibility targets alongside the more standard marketing and awareness aims.


For more information on the Work like a Horse programme and how it could be adapted for use by your federation, please see   

All photos copywrite credit to Werkenalseenpaard