SURROUNDING herself with horses has remarkably improved the mental health of an Isle of Wight woman — and she hopes her story will help others.

Melissa Pinfield-Wells spent years in and out of psychiatric wards, couldn't hold down a job, and tried to take her own life.

Now at 26 she has had three years of feeling more settled, since letting the equestrian world envelope her.

She set up her own business, Melissa's Equine Service, where she teaches riding, schools horses and backs and breaks in young horses. It is a lifestyle choice as well as a job, and it suits her down to the ground, but it took her a while to reach this point.

Melissa was born on the Island and went to Nine Acres Primary then Nodehill Middle, but left due to being bullied. She went to Priory School but dropped out at 14.

She took a Level 3 BTEC at the Isle of Wight College but her attempts to work and study after that failed. Even when she thought she was doing what she wanted, her mental health problems took over and left her unable to cope.

Being on the autistic spectrum, she found it difficult to work in busy environments or with other people.

Eventually, her confidence was given a boost when she started helping out at Robert Booth's yard, and she found that whenever she was with horses, she felt able to cope, and able to communicate with others.

She set up her own equine business, at Blacklands Lane, Newport, and has been thriving ever since. She said: "Since working full-time with horses, it has been the first time in my adult life I have not had a period of time in Seven Acres. I have not been admitted for three years.

"I do not get quite so stressed because I have the horses. When things get tough, I feel I can still cope if I focus on the horses.

"I don't have much human interaction, but when I do, I have a horse with me, and I can cope. I communicate better with horses, they are simpler to understand compared to people."

She is particularly close to her horse Bernard, who gives her a reason to keep going. She has to look after through thick and thin because he is a difficult character and few others can handle him.

Melissa is currently training in animal physiotherapy, and should qualify soon.

She said: "I want other people to see that just because someone wrote you off, it doesn't mean it's true. Find something you are passionate about and use it to your advantage.

"If my story helps even one person, that is good enough for me."