I have adored horses and riding since I first begged a ride on my sister's pony at the age of three! As a child I was into show jumping. I always knew I wanted to work with horses, and after gaining the BHSAI qualification in 1975 I went to work in America for several years, mostly starting and bringing on youngsters, before returning to live and work in the UK. In more recent years I've focused on training in classical dressage and exploring natural and alternative approaches to horsemanship. I also have 35 years experience of Buddhist meditation practice; plus I'm a qualified counsellor, NLP Trainer and experienced coach. My book, Heart to Heart with Your Horse – the Horse-Lover's Guide to Self-Coaching is available from Amazon. I now live in Somerset, on beautiful Exmoor, with my family of horses and dogs – Brigit, Rowan, Samten and James.
For me, horses and personal development are closely linked. I'm interested in people, and in why and how we do what we do, and how we can learn and develop in positive ways. There are two main strands to my horse coaching work nowadays. One strand focuses on helping people with their horses, teaching riding and doing lots of confidence coaching for both horses and riders. Mostly I work with people who want to learn how to get on better with their horses: a sort of 'Relate' service for horses and humans. While my main interest is now in classical dressage and I think riding is absolutely brilliant, I appreciate that to ride a horse is a privilege, not a right, and there are many other ways to be with horses than just riding them. What's important is the relationship and the reciprocal benefits of that relationship: it has to be as much about the horse as the human, and free from any exploitation.
The other part of my work focuses on horse-facilitated coaching, in which the horses facilitate the coaching process for the humans. As emotionally sensitive, social beings who are extremely good at picking up the intentions and emotions of others, horses can help us humans to understand ourselves better and to explore different ways of being in the world and connecting with others. Again, the key is to be found in connecting through loving relationship.
Coaching is about helping people to learn. It's about becoming increasingly open and aware, asking good questions and investigating assumptions: often we'll find that a problem can provide both an incentive and a starting point for learning to take place. We humans are often so hard on ourselves and on each other. Coaching encourages us to find our strengths, and to be kinder to ourselves – and to others too.
I think horses are wonderful, magnificent, marvellous beings. So are humans. I want to encourage humans to recognise horses for the magnificent, highly evolved beings they are. This isn't only important for the welfare of horses, who suffer so much through human ignorance, callousness or cruelty; it's also important for humans. Human arrogance and self-centredness are terribly damaging: they block not only our connection with our fellow beings, but also with our own deepest nature. This disconnection leads to our exploiting our fellow beings and trashing the planet that is home for us all. Connecting deeply with horses can re-awaken our sense of connection with the universe; it can heal the existential sense of alienation so many people experience and close the delusional rift between 'humanity' and 'nature'. It can change our experience of the world.
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