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Why I do Equine FACILITATED Learning

The horses are talking, but are you listening?

Facilitating learning sessions with horses is at times one of the most difficult jobs I have ever done.

Not because it's difficult to be around horses, but because it requires an enormous amount of skill to drop preconceived ideas and agendas and let the horse co-lead the session. This is why it is called Equine FACILITATED Learning - the horse (or donkey or mule) facilitates the learning, and is very much in a co-leadership role.

As the human component of that, I find this requires phenomenal listening skills. It also requires an open mind and a lot of curiosity. This is more difficult to facilitate because the content of the session becomes uncertain and the human isn't the only one leading. It can also deliver much deeper and harder to deal with feedback because you get the full honesty of the horse's thoughts and feelings - which as humans, we're not always used to getting!

This approach isn't how many of us were taught to handle horses. Traditional horse handling methods see horses as tools rather than equals (think lesuire horse, sports horse, cart horse). In this dynamic interactions are made easier for the human by being "do as I say". The conversation is one way, there is little room for feedback.

The "do as I say" approach is for me more Equine ASSISTED Learning. In this approach, the client would focus on themselves and perhaps ask the horse to complete a task with them, such as walk around an arena. The learning is in developing the skills to complete the task. The horse is seen as a tool in that learning.

Such an approach works and clients get great outcomes, but for me there is often little scope for full feedback from the horse and much of the deeper learning is lost. I started my practice with this approach, but found particularly with my current herd of horses they were unwilling to work this way - with Dainty even sending me to the States to get retrained!!

I have a preference

Whilst I would never say one approach is right and the other wrong, I have come to know which one I prefer and am committed to improving my skills in that approach.

To that end, I have asked Kara Dyhan of Herd Thyme to facilitate the afternoon session at the upcoming EAFPN Meet Up - What is your horse saying? for Equine Practitioners.

Kara bases her work around listening to the horses feedback and integrating that into the clients learning. This to me maximises the benefits the horses bring and gives them the best possible opportunity to shape our growth. I can't think of a better and more respectful way to work with the horse's innate wisdom.

I can't wait to both explore this topic and see Loes' new venue. It is real treat to be around them both and the beautiful Equilore horses.

If you are an Equine Practitioner and you feel like this is an area you would like to explore and learn about more, then join us on the Northamptonshire/Oxfordshire border on Sat 15th October to meet the Equilore horses, network with peers and learn more about Kara's approach.

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