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Why Learning with Horses Began

The summer before I was fourteen I inherited a horse, a very wild uncooperative horse. I say inherited but really it came to me by default.

My brother and sister had clubbed together to buy a cheap horse, what they hadn't bargained on was it was cheap because it had been through every dealers yard in the area and no one could "break" her. The only things that ever got broken were their wills and their hearts as day after day they limped home, battered, bruised and increasingly hopeless. Finally the decision was taken to send her back.

The night before the transporter was due to collect her, she put her foot down a field drain and badly cut her leg. She was unable to travel. She wouldn't let either my brother or sister near her. At first she didn't let me up close, bit by bit as I cleaned her wounds and cared for her injuries we built up an understanding. I loved this horse and as she responded to me a strong bond formed between us. By the time she had recovered, my mum hadn't the heart to see what had become "Lees horse" sold , so she gave Kim and Gary the money they had paid for her and she became mine.

From this nervous, fearful and defiant horse I learned so much. If I was annoyed for any reason, I couldn't get near her. If I was impatient, she got rattled and sweated up. When I was calm and relaxed she would follow me, if I lifted my foot she would hold up her hoof till I put my foot down. If I believed we could do something, she did it. She recognised and responded to my emotional and mental energy before I was aware I had any! She taught me self awareness; it was as simple and life changing as that.

Over time I developed an understanding of the strengths of emotional intelligence. I learned how to control the silent messages I gave out, how to remain calm, even when my brain told me to be afraid. I learned how to show leadership without causing fear, how to give directions without causing stress. I learned far more about how to harness who I could be by being with this horse than I ever learned by being taught by people.

Six years later I joined Thames valley Police, where as a nineteen year old, alone out on foot patrol I met many new challenging and sometimes intimidating situations. The lessons my horse taught me were invaluable. I knew how to be calm, be in control without being aggressive; this meant I could do my job in a peaceful, productive way. Three years later, I left the Police Force to return to education and then on to work with horses, continuing this work until my mid thirties. Whenever I need to find solution and deal with demanding situations I know, thanks to the lessons I have learned from horses, I have the personal resources to succeed.

After a career change in my late thirties I began focusing on working with people rather than horses, helping them develop communication, team building and leadership skills. I have worked for Careers Scotland and Community Learning and Development as well as private training companies and companies with charitable status. I found that no matter the sector I worked in, similar needs prevailed and traditional methods of raising self awareness, leadership skills and team building were having limited success.

One night I found an article in the Herald on Equine Assisted Guidance and Learning, the links lead me to learn more, go on courses, read all I could find on the subject and finally go to Poland for the European Conference on Horse Assisted Education, I then attended the "Train the Trainers" course with Gerhard and Karin Krebs, the German founders of the European Association Of Horse Assisted Education. Here was a system which used horses to teach business people "human skills", communication, leadership, teambuilding, all taught through an experiential learning programme using the interaction of human and horses as a metaphor representing people and business. At last I found effective training with sustainable results which I wanted to be involved with.