When James Paget rode in a race in Jersey it completed a remarkable journey from living homeless on the streets of Bath via the Greatwood Charity.

Greatwood -- founded 24 years ago by Michael and Helen Yeadon and based in the Wiltshire countryside -- has been transformed radically from its original raison d'etre of providing a home for retired racehorses.

However, the past 11 years has seen a remarkable bond formed between the racehorses and not only youngsters like Paget but also children with special educational needs.

Shaun, who is 15, has been coming for around seven years since his mother came across it.

Shaun suffers from Asperger Syndrome and anger issues but he says the horses have a profoundly positive impact on him.

"They can't talk back, they are lovely animals, they always want to be with you and play and muck around," he told AFP.

"They are peaceful animals and going into their stable to be with them it calms you down.

"I feel connected with the horses."

Shaun, whose mother is partially incapacitated as a result of a severe stroke, says he is no longer the subject of bullying at school thanks to the confidence he has gained in coming to Greatwood.

There are four different courses ranging from six to 34 weeks entailing a day's attendance a week.

"I had really bad confidence issues and was really shy but ever since I've come here I have been talking to students," said Shaun, while grooming one of the 44 former racehorses that live at Greatwood.

"Now I teach the students and it has helped me make progress and that is really lovely.

"I have my own responsibility here.

"I am allowed to go and spend time with the horses on my own and go round the yard and be at home with the horses whom I love."

Shaun, who like the other youngsters who attend Greatwood is not allowed to ride due to no insurance cover, is determined on moving on to the Northern Racing College next year for a year long course when he is 16.

"Then after that when I come back they (Greatwood) will find me a yard to work at and eventually hopefully become a jockey," said Shaun.

Paget certainly is an ideal role model for Shaun having arrived at Greatwood after five years sleeping rough in Bath -- although he is far from being the only success story.

- 'Can't put it into words' -

Abdul Kareem Musa Adam has found a job at the stables of leading English flat trainer Andrew Balding after a harrowing journey.

He and his brother returned from fetching water to find his village in Sudan burnt to the ground and most of his family being massacred.

He was tortured after he made his way to Libya -- refusing to be press-ganged into the army -- and having lost track of his brother managed to get to France.

He then risked further injury or worse by jumping on a truck travelling to England and ended up in Swindon around 12 miles from Greatwood.

Sasha Thorbek-Hooper who is responsible for fund raising -- no mean challenge when each horse costs £8,000 (9,400euros, $10,300) a year to keep -- marketing and public relations says it is moving to see the improvements in the pupils who range from the ages of eight to 24.

"We are very fortunate as every day we see changes in young people who come here," she told AFP.

"The pupil might be one who finds it difficult to speak to others and communicate with a group.

"However then all of a sudden he or she put their hand up and communicates freely with his peers.

"Or there are others who are agitated and aggressive but become very relaxed round the horses."

Thorbek-Hooper, who says the 'pupils' mental issues ranges from amongst others Downs Syndrome to autism to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), form extraordinary bonds with the horses.

"Scientific research reveals part of a horse's brain is similar to a human brain however you almost can't put it into words or bottle it," she said.

"It is like a chemical reaction you see young people falling in love with horses there is nothing tangible. They connect.

"For instance Malapropism who raced 150 times you see adolescent girls with quite troubled backgrounds gravitate towards him specifically."

However, another goal of Greatwood is to find the horses a long term home.

Responsibility for turning them from highly-strung race machines into something more docile falls on the shoulders of the yard manager James Taylor.

"It is an issue," Taylor told AFP referring to not always finding the perfect home.

"Not everybody has experience with horses and thoroughbreds are different.

"It doesn't always work out and we have a policy that if they are not getting on with them we will always take the horse back."