Although he did not attend our program Winston Churchill was a keen horse person and recognised the significance of this work - In his words;
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
‘ It’s hard to put into words my experience but what I can say is that many of the experiences I had with the horses were reminiscent of the way I am in my reactions to life. When I met the horses I tried to work out the hierarchy of the herd – so I could figure out where I fitted in. I have done this in groups the WHOLE of my life - it was like a mirror! My next challenge was to be myself and wonder if I would be accepted. I could step away from my usual intellectualising and just be. This therapy has really changed things for me. I have noticed less fear and more inner stability’. (Layer had 6 one hour sessions).
‘Moving into this type of therapy gave me the opportunity to read my behaviour through the eyes of the horse. I have not had much to do with horses. What I do feel now is that horses work on a basis of honesty and trust – when I behaved in a way I thought ‘I should ‘, I did not get the response I thought I had earned. I was distressed but once I reassessed my approach the horse listened and responded to my true honesty . I could feel this beautiful creature telling me that it was okay for me to be ME and to do things how I feel I would like to do them – I often prejudge myself as a failure the horses gave me hope to try something different. This therapy can take you out of your comfort zone but its worth it.’ (June had joined a 6 week group program for women).
‘ I had no idea what to expect and don’t particularly like horses. I have struggled with mental illness all my life and never been able to connect with people. I felt completely out of my depth at the first session and had no idea what I was suppose to be doing. I know now that this is all part of it. I don’t know what happened but I started to look forward to seeing the horses and how I felt at the sessions and following the time with them. I think mainly the horse taught me to ‘just be’ and to accept that you cant change the past. I learnt a lot about how I try to manage my relationships and how hard it is to trust others. I felt I could trust the horses and this helped me feel safe. I stopped drinking too much alcohol (have done for over 20 years!) after these sessions and my depression is lifting. I’m even looking at work now – not sure how it worked but it did!’ (William had 6 individual sessions).
Being with the horses helped me slow down my thoughts and move towards a happy place. In the weeks we laughed, we shared, we cried and those magnificent horses gave me somewhere I had to be every Monday morning. During the week I would find myself reflecting on my thoughts and feeling during the previous Monday’s session. I don’t know how it happens – and I was often cynical of such things – but those horses saw into my soul and knew I needed a friend. I could have spent weeks with one on one (human) counselling and never would have learnt things about myself that the horses taught me. I am now much kinder to myself. And no longer fear those magnificent animals’ (Sue attended a 6 week women’s group).
As the Head of learning Enrichment at Trinity Catholic College I would like to pay tribute to the work done by the Equine Learning and Therapy Centre. We took a group of students with special needs to the Centre for a full day of activities. The staff were a pleasure to work with in organising the day and in presenting a day that the students both enjoyed and greatly benefited from. We then used the actives undertaken on the day to provide stimulus for writing and measurement activities in term, including the production of a printed book. We found the day and the organisation excellent and would recommend them highly.
Narissa Phelps Head of Learning Enrichment Trinity Catholic College Lismore