Updated: Nov 29, 2022
Earlier this year Victoria David, Becci Godfrey and the HorseSense UK herd gifted the a local NHS trust a Wellbeing Day with the herd. The trust asked us to write a piece for their Wellbeing Magazine. Here's what we shared...
How long have you been involved with Horse Sense?
Becci is the co-founder of HorseSense UK, which she started with her herd in 2010. Victoria runs a psychotherapy practice with her horses in the neighbouring village and reached out to Becci in 2016. Their shared history and passion the wellbeing benefits of being around horses, has seen them deliver a number of programmes together, including Women's Empowerment Days, Confidence Workshops for Children and Young People and now a Wellbeing Day for East Sussex Healthcare Trust.
Can you tell us about Horse Sense?
HorseSense UK was born out of the realisation that horses provide incredible learning opportunities. Having grown up with horses all their life, Becci and Victoria both experienced what Churchill did when he said, "There is something about the outside of a horse, that is good for the inside of a man."
Driven by a desire to make the benefits of horses more accessible, particularly to businesses and non-horse owners, HorseSense UK was created to provide an opportunity to benefit from the wisdom of horses as well as for Becci's herd of horses to benefit from meaningful social interaction.
Since its inception, HorseSense UK has helped a range of people from young children wanting to gain confidence in themselves, to chief executives needing to building trust in their teams and company vision. Currently our work is focused around providing health and wellbeing support post-pandemic and ongoing learning opportunities to improve person and professional performance.
The HorseSense UK herd of three very cheeky New Forest ponies - Jim, Dainty and Squirrel - is based in Mark Cross, in the beautiful High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here we offer one to one sessions for children and adults, corporate leadership and wellbeing experiences, open programmes, business networking with the herd and ongoing professional development for Equine Assisted Practitioners.
What does Horse Sense aim to do for people?
HorseSense UK knows that by providing people with space and a chance to explore their life from a different perspective - they will naturally relax, feel better and be better resourced. By offering guided sessions with the horses, we support people to re-connect to their inner sense and experience the joy of connection with another. For some the journey is to find peace with their past and so that they might experience a happier and healthier present. For others it is about developing the skills to be successful in life such as social skills, being a team player or being an effective leader to tackle the challenges ahead.
The exceptional perceptiveness of the horses and how they respond to people means there is always something to learn, even from the briefest of encounters, and it is our privilege to facilitate that.
Why horses and not other animals?
Horses present a unique opportunity. For starters, they're big, live naturally on the land, have strong connections with themselves and other herd members and are excellent leaders. To mindfully step into the world of the horse, like we do in our programmes, is to step into an oasis of calm, reconnect with the earth, become aware of ourselves and others. Horses are great healers, so when imbalance is brought into the herd, they will seek to dissipate it. They are also phenomenal leaders, showing us how to be authentic with ourselves and work with others as a team. Whilst other animals are inclined to be loyal or aloof, horses have the ability to be self-sufficient, yet they still choose to partner with us.
With such a long history of horse-human interactions there is something magical about our connection with horses that is indescribable and can only be felt.
Finally, out of all the animals they had access to when growing up, Victoria and Becci were influenced by horses the most. Who's to say it wasn't the horses that made us choose this career? They are certainly have it in them to make that happen!
Do you have a success story that you could share?
Victoria has a great one. Sue (not her real name) came for Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) sessions because she wanted help with her marriage. When Sue met the horses in the field, she felt frustrated because she thought that one of the horses did not show her enough interest, unlike the other two horses who had approached her. This reminded Sue of her husband, who she felt did not show her enough attention and affection, causing her to feel resentful towards him.
Sue tried to get the horse, who was loose in the field, to come to her and follow her but he carried on doing what he wanted to do – to stand still! After a while Sue’s energy and intention changed and she stopped trying to get the horse to do what she wanted him to do and instead went and quietly stood still next to him.
Sue started stroking the horse's neck and he shifted his weight ever so slightly towards her and then rested his nose on her shoulder. They stayed together like this for some time.
As we reflected on Sue’s experience, Sue realised that by dropping her agenda and accepting the horse for who he is allowed them to connect with each-other in a way that was mutual and respectful. Through ongoing support, Sue naturally integrated her experiences with the horses and was able to let go of her resentment towards her husband and feel more accepting of him which allowed their relationship to improve.
Are there any challenges with working with horses?
Honestly, this isn't something we think about because the benefits are too great! Yes, the care bills can be frightening, you can't ever expect to get a good team photo and their shorter life span means that you will grieve a valued member of your herd at some point, and that is hard. But then you see an autistic child transformed, a traumatised person find the strength to return to work or a NHS worker take a well-earnt break and feel loved again and you know that it's all priceless. The depth of their perception, the profound impact they have on participants and the privilege of being in their presence far outweighs the costs.
Anything else you wish to share?
If you have the chance to spend time with a horse, do it! Those that already know them know of the health and wellbeing benefits they bring. For those that have only looked at them from afar, find a way to bring horses into your world. They have been so important to our development as a species and are continuing to do so as we move into the future. You do not have to ride a horse to have an incredible connection with it. None of our learning or psychotherapy experiences involve riding. Hanging out with, saying hello to and making a gentle connection where appropriate is profound enough to transform your world and remind you, you are a wonderful person.