Debbie Reilly – Horse behaviour & training consultant, horsemanship coach, clinician and equine assisted learning practitioner, based in the New Forest, Hampshire.
Although my love and passion for horses started as early as I can remember, it has been a long and convoluted journey, with many bumps and obstacles along the way. It has taken me from blissful ignorance and broken dreams to international clinician, horse training and behaviour consultant, coach and life long student of the horse. Outstripping all my initial aspirations and dreams, and gaining invaluable life lessons and experiences along the way…
It started in the world of traditional and classical horsemanship. I was dreaming of the horse-human relationships written about in books and seen on TV. However the reality was more like the school of hard knocks, as I worked my way through the Pony Club and competition world, ‘getting back on my horse’ and learning what I could from the horses and trainers that crossed my path. In time, I found I had an empathy and knack for riding ‘problem’ horses, and my passion for training and understanding horses began. By my teens I had successfully rehabilitated my first X-racehorse to become a promising eventer and was taking in horses for training and rehabilitation, only to be stopped short by an unrelated skiing accident, which left me with a broken back and broken dreams….
This sent me on a parallel journey, towards a new passion, to understand ourselves, resulting in becoming a staff nurse and student mentor, a holistic therapist and a care worker for traumatized children in care. Yet the horses continued to ‘call’ me, until, in 1996 I met and became inspired by Monty Roberts and ‘The language of Equus’. With great excitement and a deeper understanding of what can be achieved, I went on to work and study with a variety of equine trainers and behaviourists, founding the ‘Understanding Equus’ approach to horsemanship in 1998. Helping horse owners and again taking horses in for training and rehabilitation, whilst continuing to study equine behaviour and psychology, both here and abroad. I went on to become an Instructor in Monty Robert’s Methods of Horsemanship between 2000-2004, and assisted with the development of the MRILC in California, USA.
Then in 2004 I met an incredible horse who made me question all that I knew, forcing me to open my mind further, to look at myself and explore new methods and approaches to horsemanship. Soon after I met my (wonderful) husband who specialized in working with traumatized children with behavioural problems and I started to see the real links between the horses and us. Becoming a wife and mum gave me a fresh perspective and led me to the recent advances in science and neuroscience, shedding more light on the mind body connection, how we and our horses learn and grow and develop and the importance of feelings of safety, strong bonds, and attachments to facilitate this. This has given me a unique understanding of our horse/human relationships and the importance of a mindful, intuitive and adaptable approach, to make safe, ethical, effective and sustainable change.
In 2012, I set up the unique and innovative ‘Meeting of Minds’ program. Remaining passionate about helping my clients, adding to my ‘toolbox’ and expanding on my own ‘Spiral of learning’, it brought together a wide variety of top class trainers, coaches, equine therapists and behaviour specialists, from the worlds of traditional, classical, natural and alternative horsemanship, all working to share knowledge and skills with an open mind and non-judgemental manner. Together we explored the ‘Tools of the trade’ working to identify the foundations of good horsemanship, whatever the preferred training method, style or approach.
As I have integrated these lessons, the ‘Understanding Equus’ approach has continued to evolve, and today, I help horses AND people to build better relationships, to improve their health, performance and well being, through a variety of services. Together with a number of recommended trainers, coaches, behaviourists and therapists, we help horse lovers and owners to open their minds to the possibilities, to develop the skills, knowledge and understanding they need, to ride life’s challenges, make real changes, and find what works for their unique partnerships. And so, with over 20 yrs experience as a professional horse trainer and behaviour specialist, with each new horse/human relationship, I realize my journey to ‘Understanding Equus’ is really just beginning!
“Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imagination, our possibilities become limitless.”