People say you have a horse of a lifetime and I fully believe this is true but never in my imagination could I have foreseen what buying mine would lead to!
Having been animal – particularly horse – mad from my very early years, I have always felt a great empathy for and connection to them. My riding career began at 3 years at a local riding school with very traditional methods and almost military discipline and then to a couple of others until it was decided I should be allowed to have my own pony.
This arrived in the form of a very handsome 3 year old dun gelding that my father had bought from the local gypsies for a few pounds! Sunny was to be one of my great teachers. He was my friend, a very cheeky young lad and also had probably received no education what so ever as to what was expected of him from a ridden point of view, I did however, think the world of him and came to understand a huge amount about the ways of wayward ponies and how to sit on them under many circumstances!
Looking back and with my understanding of horses as it is now, this was probably the exact opposite to any route I would advise anyone to take that values their child’s welfare or cares about the wellbeing of a pony and its journey through life. There was knowledge in the family of horses and how to care for them and I was made aware of what was needed and expected but we were largely left to our own devices.
Despite the many and varied challenges, disappointments and occasional moments of delight that this initiation into horse ownership brought, my passion for the four legged friends only became stronger over the years. When the time came to make career choices and I was being encouraged to pick colleges and head down a professional route, I had to find the courage to tell my parents that my one true desire was to find a career among horses and teaching riding – this was digested better than I had anticipated and, having spent time undertaking the required secretarial course (that I was bound to fall back on when this notion had worn off!), I headed off as a working pupil to the yard where myself and two friends had enjoyed several fabulous weeks of riding holidays in the past.
This was a very comprehensive training experience! The yard ran as a riding school, livery yard, riding holiday centre, hired out hunters for the day, offered a breaking and schooling service, bought in, schooled and educated Irish and ex racers and was involved with the local pony club and riding for the disabled …….. apart from actually racing, there wasn’t much that wasn’t undertaken one way or another.
Needless to say, I had a great time but also learnt so much in the time I spent there and will be indebted to all those there who contributed to my education in so many areas of horsemanship. Looking back, I am sure I left there with a feel for horses that has remained with me for the many intervening years and until now at the mature age I find myself.
I gained my BHSAI and continued with a variety of jobs in the horse world - teaching, as a groom, running a trekking centre…… until I got married and for a while after that until I became involved in raising a family.
Horses have always been around whether I was teaching part time, riding for other people or having my own at home. I took employment in the horticultural industry once the children were both at school and remained there for many years until circumstances presented an opportunity for me to return to the equestrian world full time again. I was quite perplexed by the changes that had taken place with regards to the approach to riding. It seemed to have moved to a place of pressure and control, a big change from the feel and two way communication I had been trained to adopt all those years ago and which I felt sat comfortably with me.
Around this time a group of us decided to head off to the horse sales in Ireland, disillusioned with the quest to find a horse in this country, we thought it would be worthwhile investigating a different market. And so Lulu came into my life and rekindled my love of the Irish horses. Bought with the intention of taking her on to sell, she is still with me now – ten years later. My journey to find the best approaches of horsemanship really began here as I attempted to guide a very unbalanced and green four year old forwards and to form a harmonious partnership with her.
The following year we were asked to go back and buy horses for a few other people, so off we went with an idea of what each client was looking for. Walking through the rows of stables at the sale yard shortly after arrival, I glanced to the left and my eye was caught by a bright bay with a beautiful white star and my inner knowing was that I ‘had to have this horse’! I hadn’t seen any further than his head but that didn’t seem to matter, I just knew he was coming home, somehow, and he did! This was on the pretence that he would be brought on to be sold ( no chance).
John was a dream to look after, gentle and kind and beautifully mannered in the stable but…………. doing anything in the school or presenting him with a saddle and girth was likely to produce the most extreme reaction that would horrify anyone in the vicinity. My approach of taking him back to the beginning seemed to be working for a while but there was always a feeling of a possible explosion. We returned to the beginning several times, had everything checked physically and sought the assistance of various people, delved into a bit of Parelli and natural horsemanship but still he wasn’t really consistently safe and I could never mount without testing the water on the lunge or long reins. There were moments of sheer brilliance and the feeling of complete harmony and then to be plunged into a downward spiral as another outburst would make me realise that I wasn’t getting to the root of the issues at all. I had to explore any avenues that presented themselves in my determination to find the answers. Giving up on him was never an option that entered my head!
The opportunity of having an animal communicator visit to try and shed some light on the problem arose and I laughed at the thought but went ahead anyway. So began the journey to where I am now. The story of John still continues and has led me to work with communication, Reiki, EFT, Anima healing, Crystal Healing. To explore energy and light healing, Tellington Touch, Equine Touch, shamanic practices, in fact endless modalities connected to spiritual and mindful approaches. More recently I have been organising and attending clinics with Noora Ehnqvist and participating in One Horse Life clinics with Anna Marciniak. This is a huge leap into a very different approach to being with horses but is so revealing about what we have to resolve within ourselves to obtain a total understanding of our animals and just makes me hungry to keep learning more. I have discovered the benefit to animals and their people of my ability to open up the channels of communication between them and enable the people to listen to the messages that are being given. I am still striving to expand my awareness and to learn and will continue to do so until the end of my days here on earth.
I have developed a deep and driven desire to share my understanding of how it is possible to change our thought processes and belief systems that allows us to create a state of continued peace within us and deters the feelings of stress and anxiety that seem to walk hand in hand with today’s lifestyle. Being in this place produces a different approach to interacting with our animals, a deeper understanding of their needs and how to respond to them, how to choose the path of least resistance...