“A wonderful experience that has made me want to start riding horses as a hobby.”
What an amazing weekend I’ve just had! Super coaching sessions despite the liquid sunshine on Saturday, and on Sunday I delivered a bespoke, exciting Equine Facilitated Leadership workshop to participants from Kensington Temple London City Church’s Youth Mentoring Programme. We were exploring biblical principals for (non-verbal) communication and relationship building between horses & humans and looked at the lessons we can learn from our equine partners and how to apply/ incorporate our learning in everyday life.
It was a fun afternoon, packed with new ideas & revelations about the importance of clear, congruent communication and the need to develop a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills in order to form positive, meaningful relationships with people – and horses/ animals.
“I became more aware of my own feelings around the horses. I was surprised how tense I felt inside, even though I didn’t show it on the outside. By the end of the session I was so relaxed. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know ‘Little Lady’.”
Everyone came away with lots of food for thought, and I think the pictures speak for themselves…
“Practice makes Perfect” was the motto of our summer pony workshopon 8th August 2016.
We learned to bandage legs & tails, name to parts of a bridle and other tack we use, groomed correctly, solved word searches and mastered an obstacle course in-hand and ridden…and had lots of fun with it all. The children worked so well together as a team, learning from each other. Well done Anais, Cady, Elijah & Aryeh.
Love teaching the next generation of horsemen and women. Laying the right foundations, sowing the right seeds and nurturing their growth is the key to success and change 🙂
Pixie’s Progress: May – August 2016…I’ve been reviewing some video footage from our sessions and thought I put a little movie together.
After an initially quite explosive few sessions in spring, Pixie has now calmed down a lot, as Lisa has since developed an even deeper bond and established much clearer communication between the two of them. In our sessions we worked on establishing clear boundaries & space, directing the horse’s movement through body language & energy, tempi changes while leading (walk-trot-walk), and introduced / desensitised Pixie to various objects such as poles, tarpaulin, mounting blocks etc. Lisa has been fantastically diligent in working on agreed goals in between our sessions and her hard work, patience and determination are definitely paying off. Pixie is a strong character, a little opinionated at times 🙂 and often challenges us in our leadership capacity. But we look at every situation as an opportunity to learn & grow. I’m so proud of how far these two have come together and look forward to seeing both go from strength to strength. Well done, Lisa & Pixie.
This video captures my first session with the young pony Stripes & his new owner Zoe. I was told that Stripes, now 6yo, was “broken” to ride and drive by his previous owners and sold suitable as a children’s pony. Unfortunately the first half of our session was not captured on video, which would have shown you a very scared unsure pony, with a very high fight & flight response to problem solving… and at that time not safe for children.
So below is a description of what happened in the first 30 minutes and the video is evidence of the amazing transformation of Stripes’ mental, emotional & physical state, even in such a short space of time. Much work is ahead of us, but that’s already a great start…
When I met him that day, he was very nervous and easily spooked. I was told he didn’t lunge on the left rein and would rear or bolt when trying to direct him onto that rein. So we went into the arena and Stripes tried immediately to break away from me on the lunge line. When he felt the pressure at the end of the rope he stopped, faced me, reared and tried to break away again. I just stood and held my ground at the end of the rope. This time the pony stopped to face me again, but without the rearing. I just stood there with him for a few moments, allowing him processing time.
I then gently asked him to come to me and when he did, I gave him a rub on his forehead. When I tried to stroke his neck, he shied away from my hand. While facing me, I stepped quietly to the left, standing near his right shoulder. Looking and directing my core energy towards his hip, the pony first moved his hindquarters and then started to walk away from me to the right. I walked with him on a loose lunge line on a 10-meter circle. At first a bit tense, Stripes soon relaxed. After a few calm rounds, I stopped, invited the pony into the centre and gave him a lovely rub while standing quietly for a few moments.
I then stepped to the right towards the pony’s left shoulder and he instantly tried to bolt, but stopped after a few meters, faced me and then came back to me. I repeated the precious step, and this time the pony stood, still a little tense, as I stepped towards his left shoulder and I then asked him to move off to the left. A little rushed at first, but he soon realised that there was no pressure, Stripes began to relax and walked calmly with me on a loose line on a 10-meter circle to the left.
I repeated these steps several times until the pony was no longer fearful, but very relaxed and enjoying my company.
At that point I invited Zoe to come and take over…while I took the video.
It’s been a pleasure meeting this young pony and I look forward to our next sessions. With patience, consistency and perseverance this pony will definitely make a lovely children’s pony in the near future.
Stay tuned, stay safe.
The sessions at the Brent based school are going great! Although the weather was atrocious the first week back after the Easter Half-Term break, not even the torrential downpours could dampen the children’s or teaching staff’s spirits! As the heavens opened, we had to seek shelter under the permanent canapé. Cassius wasn’t too keen to depart from his grassy paddock in the school’s playing field (which he thinks is his second home now). There were so many ‘scary’ things to walk past in the playground, like table tennis tables, climbing frames, benches etc., but we eventually made it under cover. And to his delight, there was a teacher with a bag of carrots waiting for him…he made a new BFF 🙂
Last Friday, we held our 6th Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) session last Friday, and I am so touched and blown away by the love, passion, support and excitement the children and teachers have shown us at the school so far. And it just keeps getting better and better…
The response to Cassius is amazing and the changes and progress the children are making is phenomenal! The benefits to the children encompass language development, communication, team working, expressing emotions, learning new skills like grooming etc., the list goes on…I feel truly blessed and so privileged to be part of these children’s journey. I have witnessed a little girl forming a full sentence for the first time, saying “The horsey is soft.” and spelling “H-O-R-S-E – Horse”, followed by the biggest smile on her face when we cheered her on for her achievement. That moment was priceless to me!
Another little boy would come up to me, take my hand and walk me over to the pony, saying “Let’s say hello to Cassius”. We then decided on which brushes to use and gave Cassius a little groom, followed by having a go at picking out his hooves. He’d have a little giggle when the pony muzzled his hair, and then went on to tell me that ‘today was his best day because he could come and see Cassius again’. No words needed…
There is a buzz in the air from the minute Cassius steps off the trailer…Every week Cassius and I are greeted with the excitement and inquisitiveness of the children, eager to learn more about the pony’s needs. I love the variety of questions I’m being asked, ranging from “Does Cassius like Cheese Cake?” (LOL – my favourite) to “How do you know if Cassius is happy or sad?” and everything else in between…
It has been fantastic to watch some of the children transform from being frightened to be anywhere near the pony at all to now giving him gentle strokes and feeding him apples and carrots by hand. We also work each week through a brief little exercise in the booklet I designed and developed to accompany the 10-week course. Those exercises range from solving word puzzles using equestrian vocabulary, to quizzes and story writing. We’ve also been exploring the horse’s senses, breeds, feeds and general care.
I’m learning so much each week, and working with these children is so rewarding. I think I have the best job in the world!
Watch out for our next update coming soon, until then…stay safe and have a wonderful week!
About 6 weeks ago, I started working with two very smart and handsome boys named Ted & Tommy and their owners Jo & John. During our first meeting and assessment session, Jo & John talked me through their concerns and hopes for their horses. I was briefed that Ted would not stand still at the mounting block and Tommy had become ‘difficult to handle and ride’ according to yard staff. So Jo & John were quite anxious to get some help and support, with some tangible improvements. And having tried various other approaches before, they felt that a more natural, empathetic & mindful approach to horsemanship would suit them and their horses better.
We decided to address Ted’s dislike for standing still at the mounting block first: as mounting from the ground was not always practical or possible for his owners, this had to be remedied pretty swiftly. I also have to mention that I’ve not often come across a more ‘laid-back’ chap than Ted…fast was simply not a speed he’d ever moved in 🙂
Getting Ted off the yard and into the arena on a lead rope was a challenge in itself, but we got there in the end, although with lots of stops & starts. I was told that this was a daily occurrence and walks to and from the field were quite literally ‘a drag’. I started with some basic straightness training exercises (LFS), backing up etc. I then placed the mounting block parallel to one of the arena fences, leaving a large enough gap for Ted to walk through/stop in and then walked Ted up to the mounting block. He was hesitant to walk, hesitant to…well, just do anything.
I gave him a tab with the schooling whip on his belly to encourage contraction of his core muscles and then a tab on his inside hind leg/quarters, asking him to move forward. He had firmly planted all four of his feet and it took all my energy and body language to move and manoeuvre him around. Eventually he reluctantly moved a few steps and then…stopped again. So I repeated this sequence several times until we got into a flow and I then re-approached the mounting block. Once we stopped next to it, I asked Ted to lower his head and remain still while I moved towards the first step on the block. Ted immediately started backing up, away from the block. I asked him to step forward; stand still, rewarded him once still and then proceeded as previously. And Ted backed up again. This continued several times, until eventually Ted got the message that I wasn’t going to stop movinghim until he decided to stand quietly. After about 15 minutes I managed to stand on the top step without Ted having moved a muscle. RESULT! I repeated getting on and off the block a number of times with varying degrees of success of Ted standing still, but would only reward him with a treat and with…just being…once he stood still. He began to understand…and that’s when we ‘called it a day’.
The following sessions were a repetition of the above, just reinforcing what we’ve learned and practiced each week, and eventually he was standing still more often than not and for longer periods of time. By session 4 I even managed to mount & dismount without Ted moving away from the block…Jo & John were so pleased as this was a FIRST- EVER! We will continue this positive journey until Ted has learned to fully relax at the mounting block…so watch this space.
I also managed to find Ted’s ‘ON’ button for moving in more than one speed, including trot 🙂 During some in-hand work, I really had to dig deep and increase my energy field to inspire him and draw his attention to my body language. And with the help from a little flick of the lead rope behind me towards his tummy, we were off… I sped my walk up, slowed it down, stopped, backed up, then moved off in fast walk again, and Ted mirrored my moves and energy every step. I started to trot on the spot and Ted joined me…it was amazing. I could almost see/sense the ‘light bulb’ that had switched on in Ted’s brain that moment – the change in his mental attitude was visible and tangible. We’ve not looked back since…
Now Tommy was a different matter altogether…being so super sensitive, I managed to push him a little too far out of his comfort zone and straight into his ‘stress zone’ in our first session. But this just goes to show that we are all learning…all the time. And I am no exception 🙂 Introducing Tommy too to the beginnings of straightness training, we practiced LFS in stand-still and a few steps on a small circle in walk. As Tommy fell in over his shoulder on the circle, I pushed his inside shoulder out, using my finger, on the left rein, when he suddenly squealed and reared up in protest. I remained calm and when Tommy had settled, I quietly asked him to lower his head, and then sent him away again on a larger circle on the lunge. Tommy walked, trotted & cantered merely by directing my energy and body language. He was so focussed on me and picked up every little nuance of energy; he worked out what I wanted him to do even before I asked. What a smart horse! Although a little tense at first, Tommy really settled into our in-hand work, learning to relax and stretch, at which point I concluded our first session with a big neck rub and a treat.
The following weekly sessions were a continuation from our first session, with an added 20 minutes of ridden work each time. Following on from the in-hand work, the aim of the ridden work is to teach Tommy to stretch down & forward, encourage lateral bending and the stepping forward & under of the retrospective inside hind leg towards his point of mass (LFS). With Tommy being such a quick learner, we were able to practice LFS in walk on circles and had a first go along the side of the arena a couple of weeks ago. He really tried his heart out and I could not have asked for more. And as for Tommy ‘being difficult’? I think not…only misunderstood!
It is such a pleasure to work with these two horses, and with their personalities being at the opposite ends of the spectrum, they keep me mentally, emotionally, spiritually & physically on my toes…literally 🙂
I hope you’ll have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed doing my job and writing this blog. I will keep you updated on how their journey continues…
About three weeks ago, I received a request for help with an 11-months old Appaloosa filly who was getting a little bit ‘too big for her own boots’. Given her age, her owner Lisa was keen to nip certain unwanted behaviours in the butt early on in the youngster’s education.
So I met Lisa & Pixie a few days later for the first time, and Lisa filled me in about some of the difficulties she was experiencing when handling the filly in and out of the stable. Pixie was very inquisitive, as to be expected from a baby, but also a little pushy in the stable. It didn’t take long to teach her to back up and establish personal space between us. Well, once out of the stable and in the arena, Pixie didn’t hold back…
Initially, I walked Pixie around the perimeter of the arena on a loose, smiley rope in a cavesson head collar, giving her an opportunity to explore and familiarise herself with the surroundings. We had a few snorts and stops at various things such as a roll of fake grass matting laying on one edge of the arena. With patience, and a little positive reinforcement, Pixie quickly figured out that the fake grass was nothing to be worried about. As I continued to walk her away from the arena edge, the filly’s behaviour suddenly changed. She started to rear, cow-kick towards me and push herself into me. I must admit that I was a little bit taken by surprise the first time, as I had not anticipated this kind of response. I quickly responded by asking Pixie to back up, and once she stood quietly, I taught her to lower her head forward down, as well as asking for lateral bending of her head/neck, all the way through her body to the right and left retrospectively.
Then we walked on again, and Pixie repeated her explosive behaviour, with her launching herself towards me as she reared. Lisa told me that this was pretty much what she was dealing with on a regular basis, hence her call for help. There were a couple of ‘hairy’ moments and I was very aware of my respiratory & heart rate going up, so I had to really dig deep and focus on staying calm and relaxed, as to not to add to Pixie’s heightened physical, emotional & mental state. I focussed on my core energy and projected it in an assertive, firm, yet empathetic manner, not being intimidated by her actions. And that paid off, every time Pixie ‘performed’ her little escapades, I backed her up and brought her to a place of calm and quiet. She soon caught on that nothing she did would make me lose my cool or change my attitude or intention towards her. We ended the session on a calm & positive note and took Pixie back to her stable to relax and digest our interactions. It was great to hear from Lisa afterwards that she could already see little improvements and changes in Pixie’s behaviour and responses, which was very encouraging.
Lisa worked with Pixie throughout the week on finding that place of calm and relaxation if Pixie became excited or anxious about something, triggering the explosive reactions, and her diligence really showed during the following session. We also tried a different head collar, using the Dually (credit to Monty Roberts), which works on the pressure & release principle and gave us just a little more control. I repeated walking Pixie around the arena as I had done during the previous session, on a loose, smiley rope, and this time the little filly was much calmer and relaxed, respecting my space. We did have a couple of ‘moments’ again, but the backing up/lowering the head forward down routine really gave Pixie & me as the leader the space and time to relax and refocus and – just be. After about 20 minutes I handed over to Lisa, giving her guidance as she continued the session with Pixie in-hand. Being a little tense at first, Lisa soon relaxed and they both worked well together. It was so amazing to see so much change in such little time – in both Pixie & Lisa. Well done both of you! J
Having been on holiday for a week with my family, I’m now looking forward to our next session this Saturday. So watch this space….