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The Art & Science of Relationships

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What is ‘Horse-man-ship’?

What do the words ‘good horsemanship’ mean to you?
For me it is about our horse/human relationships; understanding our horses and ourselves, mentally, physically and emotionally – A holistic approach to managing, caring for and building trust based relationships with our equine friends.

Over the last 3 yrs I’ve been working with a wide variety of trainers, coaches, behaviourists, and equine therapists, all exploring different; methods, techniques, approaches, and belief’s, and all working to identify the foundations of good horsemanship.

What we found is: ‘Horsemanship’ is not about any specific ‘training’, ‘tool’, ‘method’ or ‘technique’ … It’s all about relationships…

Our ability to connect, understand and empathise, with our horses and ourselves.

the art of science in relationships
Debbie and Caddy connecting with some mutual grooming

In fact I believe it is more about a way of ‘being’ not ‘doing’, ‘who we are’ and ‘how we show up’…

As demonstrated beautifully by my non-horsey husband!!!
As demonstrated beautifully by my non-horsey husband!!!

– The Science Bit –

1. All cells are in a state of either protection, or, growth and development
2. The brain and neurological system is a social organ, responding to, and learning from others.
3. We all have ‘Mirror neurons’ in the gut and brain, which replicate what is going on around us. – Gut Instincts
4. Emotional nurture is a physiological need.

Building Trust & activating the nervous system with 4yo Feather
Building Trust and activating the nervous system with 4yo Feather

The recent advances in science and neuroscience have shown that we cannot grow and develop normally as children. Or learn, develop resilience, and be happy and healthy as adults, without feelings of safety, stability and security.

As such, secure attachment relationships, build brains. Helping our nervous systems find the vital balance between arousal vs. calming – Fight, flight, freeze vs. Rest and Digest.

In fact without comfort and emotional nurture we cannot survive…
As ‘Bolby’ the father of Attachment theories describes: “Seeking a close, trusting relationship, of care, comfort and love, is a natural instinctive behaviour.”

So what does this mean for our horse-human relationships? This brings us to…

– The Art Bit –

1. It’s all about the art of love and relationships.
2. Building trust through Understanding and Communication.
3. Engaging the seeking, play and care emotional systems, as described by Panksepp (1998)
4. Using Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy (PACE – Daniel Hughes, clinical psychologist.) to build strong bonds and encourage learning and development, in our horses & ourselves.

Building bonds through Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity & Empathy
Building bonds through Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy

And so, in 2013 we developed the ‘Understanding Equus’ attachment aware relationship model, ‘TLC’. A simple reminder of the 3 keys to building successful relationships…

TLC = Trust, Listen and Connect.

T = Trust: The foundation of all good relationships. Trust requires empathy – the ability to ‘walk in your horse’s shoes’ – When we feel understood, we feel calmer, more ready to take risks. A calm and alert state means we are ready to learn.

L = Listen: Remember, Emotions drive behaviour and behaviour IS communication. Therefore emotional intelligence is vital for establishing and maintaining positive relationships. The starting point of all good communication is the importance of mindfulness, being truly in the moment, and able to tune in to ourselves and others. This enables us to model the behaviour we wish to see in others.

C = Connect: With love, empathy, creativity and play. Heart-rhythm synchronization occurs between people when they are feeling love and care for each other. Establishing a heart-felt connection and 2 way communication is vital to achieve the appropriate level of growth and development. Engaging the seeking, play and care systems to encourage and stimulate learning.

Respond and engage; assessing needs and activating the nervous system, through touch, or physical engagement.
Respond and engage; assessing needs and activating the nervous system, through touch, or physical engagement.
Relax, balance, & regulate; To sense, listen, & feel in the moment, without the distraction of the past, or the future.
Relax, balance and regulate; To sense, listen, and feel in the moment, without the distraction of the past, or the future.
Challenge & Stimulation; is vital for learning and neuroplasticity means we ALL have the ability to change & learn new things.
Challenge and Stimulation; is vital for learning and neuroplasticity means we ALL have the ability to change and learn new things.

This model underpins the ‘Understanding Equus’ Horsemanship Coaching and ‘Equine Assisted Learning’ programs for horse owners, adults and young people:

– Horsemanship Coaching –

It is my belief that there is no ‘one’ or ‘best’ way to training and being with horses, and different methods and approaches, suit different people and different horses.
Each horse and human is unique, a product of their own genetics and life experiences. Therefore each will resonate with and respond to different training methods and approaches.
My work as a horsemanship coach reflects this, as I help people to: Build better relationships and find what methods, training and support they need, to realize their dreams.

– EAL –

Together with emotion coaching, the ‘TLC’ model forms the basis of the Equine Assisted Learning and Development Courses and programs we run.
Partnering with the horses, we offer Coaching and Facilitation for adults and young people.
1. For personal or professional development, life and social skills.
2. Developing leadership, teamwork and communication skills.
3. Building trust, confidence, emotional intelligence, self belief and resilience

Including the ‘Building Connections’ EAL program for young people in care. This is a 6-10 Week program, interacting with horses, helping children to develop life and social skills, emotional resilience, confidence and trust, in themselves & others.

Summary

So, next time you go to your horse, remember:
“Be the change you want to see in your horse”

Stop, ground yourself, and breath…

Then just think, we all need a little: TLC –
Trust, Listen and Connect, to build happy and healthy relationships

Photo’s taken at The Natural Equine Fair 2015.
Photo’s taken at The Natural Equine Fair 2015.


Thank you to Lindy Wale and all the students at Kingston Maurward College for organizing, to Lorrie Bee & Hazel-Ann Wilson for the beautiful photo’s, to Caddy, Feather and Charlotte for braving the audience and to all who attended for your input and questions. Thank you also to my long-suffering husband! We hope you enjoyed the day and left with plenty of food for thought.

2 Responses

  1. […] that it is not about what training method, tool, or technique we use. It is all about the ‘Art and Science of Relationships’ and the importance of feelings of safety, stability, and security, in order to learn and grow. How […]

  2. […] go, to clear my mind and tune in to my senses, so that I could be in the best place to listen… ‘TLC’ – Trust, Listen & Connect: The Understanding Equus relationship model, pops into my head, as I stride towards the barn. I […]

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