TV star Martin Clunes has agreed to help an Askerswell mother-of-three who is changing young prisoners’ lives through her horses.

Harriet Laurie has studied natural horsemanship for years and seen how the principles and philosophy helps both troubled horses and the humans who practise it.

When lawyer friends asked her to work with an American prisoner, who had been released after 17 years on death row, she agreed.

The success of this led to Harriet using her horses and the techniques on inmates at the Portland Young Offender Institution.

Former South Dorset MP and now Lord Jim Knight agreed to be the first patron of TheHorseCourse and now Martin Clunes has agreed to join him.

The Doc Martin star, who admits his own horses soothe him when he is wound up, said: “I think this is terrific.

“I am quite new to horses myself and I was interested in the reaction of the guys to the horses and how they made them feel.

“Horses are great teachers and it seems a great use of horses for what could otherwise be another discarded person.

“It is another great example of equine-assisted therapy.”

Harriet took time off her job as a design and marketing consultant to do the first course over seven sessions with four prisoners last year.

Harriet said: “They get a whole new understanding of their own emotions.

“My horses are specially trained to give very clear feedback on body language and attitude – to get the tasks done, the prisoners have to be calm, focused and communicate clearly with the horses.

“Over seven sessions we build new habits of behaviour which lead on to greater self control and the willingness to engage in vocational or academic training.

“If we don’t change these guys while they are in prison, they will come out the same, or worse than they went in.”