Natural Mind Magic

Horses

Cait and Brigit, long reins

I offer help with:

starting and bringing on young horses and ponies;
problem-solving;
developing confidence in nervous horses and humans;
improving communication between horses and humans;
horse-facilitated personal development coaching.

A BHSAI with 45 years experience with horses, I use some of the principles of natural horsemanship, emphasising a warm-hearted, friendly approach and positive methods including clicker-training. As an NLP Trainer (INLPTA), I coach humans using methods drawn from Neuro Linguistic Programming, which makes for fast and enjoyable learning. I believe in the importance of reciprocal benefits, and I offer my understandings and skills to help horses and humans alike to bring out the best in themselves and each other. I particularly enjoy working with ponies (especially Exmoors - Britain's own truly wild horses!), Arabs, and cobs.

As well as private coaching at clients' premises, I also offer workshops for groups.

 

NLP FOR HORSES AND RIDERS

NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) is a kind of practical psychology based on the study of human excellence in terms of how people think, communicate, and act.  Founded in the 1970s in California by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, it has since evolved greatly and is today widely used in many fields of endeavour eg business, education, psychotherapy, sports and personal development coaching.  Anthony Robbins, Derren Brown and Paul McKenna are all well-known NLP experts.

NLP offers innovative and entertaining methods to help you make rapid and positive changes in your attitudes and behaviour so you can bring out the best in yourself.  It's self-empowering, about learning how to be more effective in whatever you're doing.  It's particularly useful for changing unwanted habits. NLP works by promoting your own lateral thinking, creativity, and flexibility, within an attitude of warm heartedness and humour that encourages enquiry, experiment and learning.  An NLP coach will help you develop confidence in yourself and in your ability to learn how to do things better.

NLP coaching can help riders to become aware of their own blocks and resolve them, whether emotional eg anxiety, or self-fulfilling prophesies ('I'll never be good enough to succeed at dressage / jumping / riding out by myself'), or physical habits, or poor empathy and communication with their horses. 

NLP can help enormously in working with horses.  Much traditional horse-training has been based on correction.  Imagine what it would be like to have someone command you in a language you don't understand; then, as you hesitate, not knowing what to do, they start punishing you!  As you get more confused and upset, so they punish you more – until, by accident, you do what they want, so they stop punishing you.  Terrifying, isn't it?  NLP brings in a radically different perspective: drawing out the best in someone, whether human or horse, within a kind, warm approach that encourages experiment and learning, and promotes confidence and enjoyment.  The emphasis is on effective communication, which means enabling horses and humans to understand each other.

 

Cait on Brigit

CONFIDENCE COACHING FOR HORSES AND RIDERS

Would you like to feel more confident around your horse?

Would your horse like to feel more confident around you?

What would it be like to be able to be with your horse on the ground or ride him or her with mutual trust, the two of you enjoying each other's company?

Are you interested in hacking, schooling or competing; improving your ground-handling such as in catching, grooming or loading; dealing with challenges such as spooking, napping, or traffic nerves; or bringing on a youngster?

Perhaps you're aware of something missing – you'd like to bring back the enjoyment in your riding.  Or maybe you've had a fright, or just found yourself feeling a bit anxious.  Riding isn't meant to be an ordeal; you shouldn't need Dutch courage to get on your horse!

I emphasise safety and enjoyment and reciprocal benefits for all concerned. A BHSAI with 45 years experience with horses, I bring in a range of methods including positive natural horsemanship and clicker training, with love, respect and the commitment to trying to understand the horse's point of view.  An experienced personal development coach and NLP Trainer (INLPTA), I can help you find the confidence you need so your horse can be confident in you. 

Individual sessions cost £25.00, plus travel costs if you're more than 10 miles from Timberscombe, near Minehead.  I also offer workshops for groups.

 

Rowan lying down

HORSE-FACILITATED COACHING

Why get wet swimming with a dolphin when you can walk in the field with the horse next door?

 

Many people have found swimming with dolphins to be a profoundly healing, even spiritual, transformational experience. In fact, we can do something similar on dry land, closer to home! Horses are extraordinarily responsive to human emotions and states of mind, and there is a rapidly growing interest in enlisting their help in a human therapeutic or personal development setting. Horse-facilitated work can offer humans opportunities to:

explore different ways of being which are actually physically experienced – eg how it feels to be confident;


try out different ways to bring about results by appreciating the interaction with the horse as a metaphor for life-situations;


move beyond strategy to a different level of greater spontaneity and responsiveness in the present moment;


enjoy a wholesome connection and communication with another living being in a non-exploitative relationship of mutual trust;


find emotional congruence and learn how to experience and express emotions safely;


explore personal issues and resolve inner conflict.

The warm, accepting presence of a horse can provide a healing, safe environment in which to unlock blocked emotions, examine old limiting beliefs, and resolve past hurts. People can gain confidence and insight by discovering within themselves the qualities the horse is so good at eliciting, including trustworthiness, love, empathy, joyfulness, reciprocal giving and receiving, creativity, mutual trust and respect, confidence, assertiveness and leadership. We have the chance to experience what it is like to be different, with the horse's responses providing the external evidence for our change.

These benefits are actually reciprocal, for it's only when we stop seeing the horse as 'other' and start genuinely connecting with a deeper, shared level of being that the real magic happens. Horses love to be with humans who are willing to meet them in the open space of mutual understanding and connection!

There's no need to be a rider or have any previous experience with horses to enjoy horse-facilitated coaching, and we don't do any riding – the focus is on connection and communication with the horses on the ground. However, for horse-people, it can help to improve your relationship with your own horse; sessions can be held at your place, with your horse, if you prefer.

We offer small group workshops and individual private sessions. Experienced in coaching and counselling, I have a background of over 30 years of Buddhist meditation practice and am a British Horse Society Assistant Instructor with a lifetime of loving and working with horses here and in the USA. Brigit is a twelve-year old mostly-Arab palomino mare who is especially skilled at facilitating change at a deep level – she won't settle for improved strategies, but holds out for radical shift! Rowan is a nine-year old chestnut Arab gelding with a great spirit of fun who is especially good at building confidence and encouraging people to relax and enjoy themselves.

Costs: a private session £40; a half-day workshop for three or four people £25 each; other workshops prices vary.


INTRODUCTION TO A HORSE-FACILITATED COACHING SESSION

SOME BASIC THINGS ABOUT HORSES


Horses are flight animals who have evolved to survive in a dangerous world full of predators. They are highly sensitive to predators' intentions and motivations. They are capable of feeling and expressing a wide range of emotions and are very aware of the emotions of others around them. They don't like human incongruence or attempts to disguise emotions, and they are difficult, if not impossible, to deceive.
Their highest value is safety, and when they feel safe then the other values common to social beings come up such as love, affection, play, companionship etc.


As social animals, horses are interested in social order and are excellent communicators. One way in which they assess hierarchy within a group is by moving each other around. This is done by force of personality, not size: a ShetIand pony may move a Shire horse. It's normal for a horse to relate to a human in this way, too, by trying to move the human around; the horse is not being rude, simply trying to identify who is in charge and therefore responsible for keeping everyone safe. For a horse to accept your leadership, he or she must be able to trust you and respect your ability to lead.


Horses appreciate courtesy. As highly sensitive beings, acutely aware of human emotions and intentions, they don't enjoy being treated rudely or roughly. It is possible to communicate with a horse by thought, intention and feeling. There's seldom a need for physical or verbal harshness, although you may need to stand up for yourself and insist on your point in an assertive, not aggressive, way. Indeed the horse's own leadership-assessment process is likely to test your ability to do this.

SAFETY POINTS


As flight animals, all horses are easily startled, and when startled they will jump or shy, and may even run away. If scared, they will tend to move towards open space – and they can move very fast! Consequently, as a general principle, you are safer between a horse and a fence than between a horse and open space. It is also important to ensure that the horse knows where you are at all times: don't alarm a horse by suddenly popping up behind him or her without warning. Chatting to the horse in a conversational way about what's going on lets the horse know where you are; even better, chatting about your own feelings and intentions helps to bring them into your own conscious awareness, which will greatly enhance communication between the two of you.


If horses accept your leadership they will take their lead from you; they will trust your judgement and follow your example. If they don't accept your leadership they will rely on their own judgement, which may mean deciding to leave what they perceive as a dangerous situation in a hurry!


Since horses assess hierarchy by moving each other around, you'll want to stand your ground under normal circumstances. However, you'll still need to get out of the way if a frightened horse is in flight. You will also need to keep your feet clear – it's no fun being stepped on.


These horses are encouraged to express themselves freely; however there are certain boundaries and the principle of ahimsa (non-violence) applies. Although of course we are all full of surprises I can say that under normal circumstances Brigit and Rowan can be trusted to not kick or barge or do anything anti-social, although Brigit will very occasionally give a tiny little nip if she wants to make a point. And of course the same boundaries of behaviour and principle of ahimsa apply to the humans too.


THE USUAL FORMAT OF A SESSION


Although it isn't essential to work on a specific issue, doing so can help to focus the session. This may seem extraordinary, but you can project an aspect of your issue onto a horse, and, if the horse agrees to work with you, he or she will behave accordingly. So if you want to explore a relationship problem, the horse can play the role of your husband or daughter or colleague or whoever. Or if your issue is not about a personal relationship, the horse can play the role of an inanimate object (I once asked a big black mare to represent a filing cabinet, which she did perfectly!) I know this sounds weird but it is true.


We begin the session with a bare minimum of theory, starting with the psychology of horses and how their flight animal responses are so helpful to humans.
The descriptive model of the 'fried egg' works well for most people. This depicts our experience of being in the world in terms of two concentric circles, the outer one being the conditioned zone, the inner the authentic zone. The conditioned zone includes our fears and pretences, beliefs and identities, memories, hopes and fantasies; here are other people's criticisms and expectations of us; here are our strategies and techniques, habits and limited past-based reactions; this is the realm of separation, comparison, attachment, aversion, confusion, duality, concepts of self and other. The authentic zone is space and spontaneity, present-moment pure responsiveness; genuine creativity; connection; love and joy. Horses can help us to find that authentic zone and meet them there – a glimpse of a different level of being and a wonderful experience for both human and horse.


Moving swiftly on from the theoretical bit, for most people the practical part of the session usually falls into three phases.


1 We find a way to venture beyond the comfort zone by choosing a task for you to do with the horse that will stretch you. This allows you to explore various things that come up when you're stretched, such as success criteria, beliefs, default programmes, and various strategies of the conditioned zone. You're encouraged to notice and assess what's going on with yourself, with the horse, and with the interaction between the two of you, while the human coach plays a minimal role. This first task may range from simply approaching a horse, which is a huge challenge in itself for someone who is nervous of horses, to me really scratching my head trying to find something that will stretch someone who is very experienced with horses and has lots of expert techniques at their fingertips!


2 Next we bring in some coaching. You have an opportunity to experiment with 'doing things differently'. The horse will give you continual, immediate feedback as to how he or she is experiencing your presence and your behaviour and this will enable you to monitor your own process. You may find some new, more effective strategies – or you may find yourself moving to a different level of being altogether that is beyond strategy and technique: the authentic zone. This is where horsy people gasp with amazement as they watch a complete newcomer make a connection of such purity with the horse that the horse responds by doing something that horses 'just don't do'! However the shift manifests, we make sure that you really get the physical experience of it and we anchor it by word, posture, and gesture so you'll be able to find it again.


3 Step three is about establishing the learning and being able to apply it amid uncertainty. We may work with the horse at liberty; after all, you'll want to take your learning home with you and the other people in your life are not on the ends of ropes! We'll also do some future pacing to help you to apply your learning in your life situation.


PRACTICAL RECOMMENDATIONS


Wear comfortable clothes suitable for hugging horses; also sensible shoes or Wellingtons; and bring gloves if you have them. I don't have an indoor school, so, depending on the weather, you may get wet and muddy (although if it's really tipping down we can still have a good session in the barn). Depending on the time of year and the weather, it can be cold out in the field so I recommend wearing several layers of clothing. People with a sensitivity to hay or dust need to be aware that there is lots of hay and dust around the horses and to take appropriate precautions. You may like to bring a notebook and pen, also water in a non-breakable container.

RECOMMENDED READING


If you read only one book before your session, make it this one: Linda Kohanov Riding between the Worlds, New World Library, California 2003 www.taoofequus.com .
If you’re interested in the therapy side of it, I recommend Adele von Rust Cormick and Marlena Cormick, Horse Sense and the Human Heart: what horses can teach us about trust, bonding, creativity and spirituality, Health Communications inc, Florida, 1997.

DIRECTIONS


Timberscombe is a village near Minehead within the Exmoor National Park. Take the A39 towards Minehead; turn south on the A389 at Dunster; two miles further on you come into Timberscombe. The Dell is a low white house alongside the main A389, on the right, just after the Wootten Courtenay turning. There is usually plenty of parking here (if not, you can park in the Wootten Courtenay lane and walk the few yards to The Dell).

Below are some accounts of people's sessions with the horses, and an article about horse-facilitated coaching.

How Brigit and Cait helped me to know myself better
by Elizabeth Medler

I travelled to Cait’s home at Timberscombe on Exmoor on a wet, windy weekend in March – although the weather could not detract from the beauty of the scenery and Cait’s lovely horses, Brigit and Rowan. I love all animals, but have very little experience of horses.


We were confined to the barn for our session as it was so wet outside, but it didn’t seem to matter. Cait began by taking me a little out of my comfort zone, asking me to watch her put a halter on Brigit and then do it myself. I thought I had watched carefully but it turned out I hadn’t. It was as if my attention had been frozen by events and I couldn't really take things in. I asked Brigit if it would be okay if I put her halter on. I wasn’t overly confident, but I felt it important to ask the horse's permission. Later, Cait noted how conciliatory my language was and that made me think about my habitual approach to people and situations. The idea is that the horse mirrors back to you your way of being in the world and your authenticity – or lack of it. It turned out that it was right to talk to Brigit gently but also confidently and sincerely. Apparently horses will not ‘play ball’ so to speak if they sense a person is lacking in confidence and doesn’t mean what they say.


Despite watching Cait no fewer than four times, each time I tried I failed to put the halter on correctly. Repeatedly I placed it over poor Brigit’s eye, which couldn't have been very comfortable for her. Cait suggested that I use a pen and paper to note things down and it turned out I needed to! First, Cait pointed out that when she asked me to put on the halter she had not said I couldn’t ask her for help, yet, despite the fact that it could have hurt the horse, not once did I ask for help. This seemed to me to reveal a certain pride and a lack of humility. I wanted to do it myself unassisted! There were other things too. For instance, it seemed that I had persistently tried to put on the halter in the same way and had not varied my approach. Another interesting insight – the experience was full of interesting insights! At this point, Cait suggested I recall a moment in my life when I had achieved something and done it well. Inwardly I recalled learning to play the piano and the feeling I had when I played a piece for the first time. She now suggested I apply this feeling of confidence to putting on Bridget’s headcollar. I did so and on this fifth attempt I managed to get the halter on – after a fashion!


The next task was to clip Brigit’s rope on and ask her to walk a few steps towards me and then ask her to step back. With calm assurance Cait showed me how to do this. I watched carefully, and noted Cait’s firm but loving voice. I tried myself but Brigit would not walk forward. At last she did so, but when I stood tall and looked into her face – as Cait had done – and asked her to step back, she wouldn't budge! Cait’s voice jolted me when she called out, ‘Mean it! Take yourself seriously! Take Brigit seriously!’ Suddenly, I meant it! And Brigit stepped back! To hold up a hand is also a signal to the horse to ‘step back’. I did this but did not put my hand down quickly enough as she responded, so the poor horse was probably left feeling that she had not accomplished the request. As soon as Cait pointed this out, I put my hand down.
Finally, I completely stepped out of my comfort zone by ducking under Brigit’s belly, right under her girth. I am sure that most ordinary horses would have objected, but Bridget is a loving horse whose potential has risen to its summit under Cait’s unique training and tender loving care. I felt so thrilled and elated after springing up the other side of Brigit’s body.


When Cait left me alone for a while to share my vulnerability and problems with Brigit, Brigit began to lick my hands which was just lovely. Cait said this was a sign that she was aware of and processing my feelings. It certainly felt like a special bond had been forged and I felt confident to be alone with Brigit.


Cait suggested that I frame a simple affirmation to embody the essence of what I had learned during the session. When I said it aloud I could hear myself sounding a bit weak and watery. Cait’s strong voice bellowed out the words I had chosen and I realised then that I needed to affirm with my vocal cords as much as the words themselves.


I can see how important this therapy is and would recommend it to anyone wanting to grow in self-understanding and consciousness. After all, if the world is to be a better place, we must start with ourselves! Thank you, Cait and Brigit!

 

Four clients

J meets Rowan


J came to me on the recommendation of her therapist, who accompanied her on her visit. J was experiencing a lot of fear and anxiety, had extremely low self-esteem, and was prone to bouts of weeping. When she met Brigit and Rowan, she was drawn to Rowan. Rowan is naturally sweet and gentle, also very bright with a mischievous sparkle. J took a while to find the courage to approach Rowan, although he was tied to a fence and standing quietly. Gradually she was able to move closer to him, and as she relaxed enough to be open to his friendliness, she asked if she might groom him. She spent most of the session brushing and talking to Rowan. She also talked with her therapist, although once or twice she asked her therapist to step back so she could just be alone with Rowan. During the session Rowan was apparently processing J's quite intense emotions (horses have the ability to do this for humans: they seem to be able to allow the emotions to pass through their bodies and dissipate), and J was becoming calmer and happier and more able to simply enjoy being in his presence; she also greatly enjoyed his evident appreciation of her caring for him, and was able to connect with him emotionally. Subsequently, J's therapist reported that J found that the session gave her the opportunity to experience simply allowing her emotions to flow through her without her becoming distressed, which was a revelation for her; she also found Rowan's steady acceptance and appreciation of her deeply reassuring – he provided a model for her to relate to herself more steadfastly and kindly; and she was able to relax and simply enjoy herself in his company – again, an unusual experience for her.

S meets Brigit and Rowan
S wanted to work on a particular issue: following an extended period of intense domestic difficulties, she was aware of having protected herself from the trauma by distancing herself from her family; now she wanted to explore reconnecting emotionally. As she was an experienced horse-person we started with both horses at once, both at liberty. At the start of the session, the horses ignored S: they went over to the furthest corner of the arena to chat with some other horses who were the other side of the fence. S and I sat down and talked for a few minutes; then ran through a simple NLP exercise that enabled her to make an emotional shift. As she made the shift, both horses swung round and looked straight at her, then together they walked over and nuzzled her, resting their heads in her lap as she stroked them. The horses recognised the emotional shift S had made and provided her with their external corroboration of her inner experience; their loving response and physical contact also enabled her to go more deeply into the shared experience of emotional connection that she was seeking.

S meets Rowan
S was experiencing stiffness, aches, and shooting pains in her legs, especially the knees. She felt she had been the primary support for a family member for a long time, and she was exhausted. She was aware of feeling unsupported herself, and in desperate need of some kind of nurturing. As we sat in the barn with the horses, who were munching on haynets as we talked, the image of a rearing horse came up for S. The horse was fixed in a levade posture, like a warhorse, but although it looked noble and strong its hind legs were trembling with exhaustion. When I asked S what prevented the horse from moving from the levade, a cobra emerged, hood extended, looking fierce. At first S found this a frightening image, but when I remarked that the naga, appearing as cobra with extended hood, is a Buddhist icon often portrayed as protecting the meditating Buddha, she realised that it might represent a protector part of herself. We asked the cobra to allow the rearing horse to lower its forefeet to the ground, and it agreed. As the horse lowered its feet, S found herself relaxing and breathing deeply. At this point Rowan looked up from his haynet, walked over to where we were sitting, and lay down next to S. S then lay down next to him. A few moments later, Rowan stretched himself flat on the ground and placed one foreleg over S's body, holding her. They lay like that for maybe 10 minutes before Rowan moved, and they both got up. On getting up, S noticed that the pains in her legs had diminished and she felt relaxed and peaceful. Before ending the session we discussed how she might find different ways of supporting the family member and of getting the support she herself needed.

G meets Brigit and Rowan
G was attending a workshop with several other people. She revealed on arrival that she was very frightened of horses and that one of her main aims for the day was to work with this fear.


We allocated some time at the beginning of the workshop for each person to meet Brigit and Rowan individually, and, although normally the horses would not be wearing halters or be in any way restricted for this particular type of workshop (a deep ecology day), on this occasion I put halters on them to reassure G.


We all went into the field, and the humans sat on the ground in a circle; G and a couple of other people chose to sit in chairs. The horses were wandering around, coming into the circle to join in with the activities that interested them. Both horses were very gently attentive to G throughout the morning, and she was visibly relaxing in their presence. I removed their halters towards the end of the morning session.


After the lunch break, G chose to sit on the ground for the afternoon session. Brigit and Rowan walked up together to stand on either side of her, just behind her, as though guarding her. G spontaneously lay back and stretched out her arms; the horses stepped even closer to her so they were standing over her outspread arms as she lay flat on her back on the grass. A stillness and silence arose among all of us, and we all stayed as though spellbound for several minutes. Then both horses moved slowly away from G, stepping carefully over her arms, and began grazing peacefully nearby. When G sat up, tears were running down her smiling face – we were all moved and a bit tearful.


A week or so later G emailed me to say: ‘Phew – that weekend – I have tried to reply to you so many times and words just seem inadequate. It took several days for me to assimilate it all… the momentous shifts in awareness I had made. I released some really old tarry gloopy nonsense that had been holding me back and am definitely ready for our next session as I feel some more beginning to bubble up. I am humbled and awed in working with Rowan and Brigit – they are beautiful and amazing and powerful and graceful. I thank them every day. It has changed my world for the good – I am realising my purpose, my strengths, and the areas that need tending and am full of joy and wonder at the prospect of it all.’

 

THE SPIRIT OF HORSES
by Caitlin Collins

Experiencing deeper levels of being, glimpsing that elusive state that lies beyond the usual ups and downs of ego, is traditionally the province of the spiritual seeker. But the opportunity can also pop up in other places: the arts, for instance; sports; or extreme experiences such as mountaineering; and, of course, if we can just prise our attention away from our habitual distraction long enough to notice it, we'll find that the doorway is really always open.


Over the past 10 years or so, with the happy coincidence of the rise of natural horsemanship – 'horse whispering' – combined with the development of personal and corporate performance coaching, another field of opportunity has appeared with the recognition of horses as guides and doorkeepers.


Stepping through the doorway into our 'true nature' requires us to dare to go beyond the limits of our habitual ego-identifications; beyond the conventional barter systems of trying to please and wanting to be liked; beyond the learned hypocrisy that prevents our truly honouring ourselves or another person. Horses are extremely sensitive to human incongruence or hypocrisy; they can pick up, and are afraid of, our fear and aggression. They have an extraordinary ability to respond accurately to others' intentions. Maybe this comes from their evolution as flight animals whose survival depends on their being able to correctly read and react to the intentions of predators. And, as social animals, they are skilled communicators with a natural inclination to form harmonious relationships, and they value the qualities of herd-leaders who can help them to stay safe in a dangerous environment.


The world of personal and corporate coaching has begun to recognise the significance to humans of the equine response to human intentions and leadership qualities, and a number of horse-assisted coaching systems have appeared. One such system is overtly venturing into the spiritual realms, despite being largely aimed at business managers wanting to develop leadership skills! Cotswold-based leadership coach Paul Hunting has combined his horsemanship skills with his coaching training and his personal spiritual practice to come up with what he's calling Horse-Assisted Transformation (HAT) coaching: he calls it transformational because it's not about learning to do better at what we're already doing, it's about finding a radically different way of being.


My own background includes a lifetime of being around horses – working with them, riding them, just being friends with them – combined with over 30 years of Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice, plus professional training in counselling and NLP coaching. Meeting Paul and training with him has given me the key I was looking for to bring all three together. Bring in a beautiful palomino mare called Brigit as the senior partner, and we're ready to go!


Imagine yourself in a small space with a very large, fast-moving animal with hair-trigger reactions. You can't be anything but fully present! Mental chatter stops right there! You're highly motivated to find whatever it takes to stay safe – and that means finding the qualities or state of being within you that will enable the horse to relax and be confident in your ability to direct her properly. It's fast, it's effective, and it's exhilarating. It's also egalitarian: Brigit doesn't care about your income, your beauty, your achievements, your cleverness, or your ancestry; all she is interested in is your trustworthiness right here now.


As with any interaction, there are inner and outer aspects. On the outside, you're learning how to handle a horse in such a way that you can both enjoy each other's company. On the inside, you're learning how to connect with Brigit at that deeper, shared level of being that is always there, waiting for us, if we dare step through the door.


Brigit has been working her magic with a range of people over the past few months. She brings to each encounter exactly what each person needs to help them make that shift. Epiphanies are taking place in a muddy field on Exmoor! Some of the seekers are meditators: for them, it's a way to find the deeper level of experience they're seeking; later they can take it into their meditation practice and learn to stabilise in it. Others are hoping to find some solution to a problem: what they learn is that the answer lies less in doing and more in being and in connecting with another person in a different way from the usual titanic clash of egos.

Brigit's sensitivity and flexibility are extraordinary. I recently experimented by working with two people at the same time. We were working at liberty, with Brigit free to express herself unconstrained by halter or rope. One moment she was standing quietly, absolutely immobile, allowing a woman who was afraid – afraid of horses and afraid to be herself – to find the trust and courage to duck right under Brigit's belly, inches from her hooves. The next moment she was racing madly round the field, bucking and kicking, slide-stopping and rearing – for the benefit of the other woman, a dancer who wanted to overcome the inhibitions holding her back; standing in the middle of Brigit's wild display, this woman was both weeping and laughing as she said, 'She's dancing for me – she's showing me how I could dance!' And with another seeker, someone with no knowledge of horses but a loving, nurturing person with a strong spiritual practice, Brigit simply walked over and lay down in front of her – perhaps the greatest way a flight animal can demonstrate that she finds you trustworthy.


As the Sufi mystic Rumi said: 'Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.' Brigit and her fellows want us to meet them in that field. Horses will forgive us again and again as we come at them from our ego-based, exploitative agendas; they will invite us again and again to join them in the field of authentic being, authentic connection. When we respond to their invitation and the transformation happens we experience it as a moment of shattering truth and a shifting to another state of being, free of fear, free of aggression. That's true 'horse-whispering': it's not about our talking to horses; it's about our having the humility to listen to horses. If we listen to them, they can guide us through that door.

November 2007 © Caitlin Collins, Published in New Vision magazine, January/February 2008 www.thehamblintrust.org