A horse therapy charity started in west Dorset is saddling up for a £80,000 new building project – with the lion's share of the funding secured.

TheHorseCourse has received a major boost after the National Lottery pledged £65,000 towards the project.

It is hoping the public will help raise the last £15,000 that will ensure it can provide the facilities it needs at its HQ to offer more people life-changing opportunities.

TheHorseCourse, whose patrons include actor Martin Clunes, has built its reputation by helping people from the age of eight to adults referred by social workers, mental health professionals, teachers and doctors if traditional talking therapies aren’t working.

The charity’s revolutionary approach involves participants working with horses to improve core skills which then lead to real life improvements like returning to education, training and work.

The charity was started in 2010 by Harriet Laurie from Askerswell who used her trained horses to teach violent young offenders. The HorseCourse is now based at Higher Manor Farm, Upwey, Weymouth.

Ms Laurie said: “We are thrilled that the National Lottery has pledged us £65,000 towards a new outdoor arena, a horse agility playground, a veg garden and an improved kitchen space. We also have to do necessary work to convert the old farm slurry pit into a car park.

“These improvements will improve our work by getting participants out of our small indoor arena and into the challenge and the beauty of the open countryside."

She said the charity would also be able to develop a 'supported volunteering programme' for former participants who will learn about growing and cooking communal lunches, and getting qualifications along the way.

Youngsters who need support to get back to school will also be helped.

So far, the charity has helped nearly 1,000 people with its intensive ReStart course and at any given time it will offer around 25 supported volunteering placements, up to eight out-of-school places, and will continue to provide 160 ReStart courses every year.

Ms Laurie added: “We hope that people will dig as deep as they can so that we can go on making such a big difference in the lives of the people who come to us as a last resort because nothing else has helped them.

“The National Lottery Community Fund will go a long way to fulfilling our vision but we need public support to do the rest.”

Donations can be made via justgiving.com/campaign/TheHorseCourse and also via thehorsecourse.org and through its Facebook page.