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Rachel Pountney Cheshire and the Grey Pony

“I have been providing seminars in Equine Facilitated Learning, and also actual sessions, in numerous countries for many years. I have personally seen the miracles that mutually successful (for both horse and human) interaction with horses can present.

This lovely email is testimony not to me, but to the magic, mystery and wonderful benefits to all (including the horses) that come come from experiences with horses that have compassion, kindness, knowledge, patience, skill and good communication at their core. My hope is that some of you reading this email will be inspired to consider experiencing Equine Facilitated Learning for yourself as a way to assist and uplift yourself, others and perhaps, decide to learn more about it.

Thank you, Franklin”

Dear Franklin,

It feels like so long ago now that I attended your EFL course in Perth at Capricorn, and it was, in fact, the best part of 1 year ago, so I have been remiss in not writing to you sooner.  But you know what?  I remember those experiences with you as clear as if it was yesterday and I can truthfully say that they are among the most precious and prized experiences of my life.  The truth is that I have been so involved with the horses at RDA Brigadoon that I barely have time for much else these days, but I’m not complaining one bit.  Since your course, I have been assessed as having adequate skills to be present at Brigadoon with our horses, without the necessity of an accompanying coach.  How about that eh! 

Since your course my confidence with horses has grown.  You may remember I came to you with a good level of anxiety about working with horses other than my beloved Kazza and I clung to his lead rope for a great part of your course.  Your wisdom in accepting where I was at that time and embracing that relationship I had with him, gave me the confidence in you and in me to move forward in my horsemanship during those few days and beyond.  You also uncovered a side of Kazza that I never knew existed and since seeing it, I have never looked at him the same.  And perhaps because you reminded him of something about himself, he just looks a little bit prouder these days.  I have since come to believe that most horses we meet (late in their life at least) are a mystery, in that we don’t always know all that they have done in their lives, where they’ve been and what they’ve seen.  I like that. 

Remember you said it would be good for Kazza to be around a kind and gentle man to help him get over his fear of men? And you may remember his fear of you was quickly transformed once you rode him.  Well, he has become very fond of my husband (and vice-versa), and I know this because when my husband is near by, Kazza will keep touching his nose to my hand and then looking at Tony with excitement.  He’s like a little boy pulling on my hand and saying “Look Mummy, there he is!”  (I find that Kazz talks to me a lot by touching his nose to my hand and looking at what it is he wants and now that he knows that I am actually listening, he won’t stop.)

I work with Kazza as regularly as time allows on the things that you taught.  We do circles over jumps and squeezing between drums and I try to change it up for him all the time.  The addition of this activity keeps him fresh for his RDA work and as a result, our bond has only grown.  I don’t get much chance to ride him and you may remember that they don’t like him to be ridden off lead by anyone as he has shown a habit of taking off, but I love to tell you that I did take him off lead a few weeks ago.  I was riding him on the lead (just in a halter) while all the other riders were riding their horses off lead and I just had this confidence in him that I knew he would be fine, so we quietly unhooked him from the leader.  He registered immediately and he tuned right into me.  I just walked him and didn’t ask anymore, but for nearly half an hour we weaved and walked over poles, did halts and starts, figure 8’s - you name it.  The strangest thing was I hardly had to tweak the reins; I just looked where I wanted to go and used my voice.  I knew that it really meant something to him to be trusted like this and be ridden just like his buddies in the arena beside us.  It was a precious moment in our relationship and I cried during that ride.  I don’t know if he will always be this calm, but I do know that this is the result of all the hours we have spent together on the ground.

Chestnut MareI am currently also involved in rehabbing a chest-nut thoroughbred from the track.  He has very poor feet, a build up of scar tissue in his hind quarters and absolutely no condition.  But he’s bomb-proof and a sweet and gentle boy who just loves his new life with us.  I have been doing circles with him and a bunch of body work and working with a great farrier on his foot health.  I’m hoping he will make an RDA horse yet, but if not, at least we have a chance at re-homing him.  So this is evidence that I do in fact work with horses other than the grey pony!

The story I have that will most please you is of a young girl called Sarah who is a client at RDA.  For weeks the coach and I have been trying to mount her on a pony.  She stands on the ramp and tries and hesitates and tries again, but to no avail.  She’s non-verbal and so she could not tell us of her frustration and fear, but when we saw those tears rolling down her cheeks, we realised we were doing something wrong.  Last week I was given permission just to try some EFL with her and so I worked with her, her mum and Kazza in the arena.  Kazza stood like a statue while she stroked and groomed him and while she brushed the sand from under his hooves as I cradled them in my hand.  She led Kazza around the arena, over a pole and over to her Mum and then squealed with delight as her Mum repeated the things that she had done and brought Kazza back to her.  Kazza was a perfect angel when at the end of the session she leaned in and kissed him on the nose.  She left the session pointing, smiling and laughing.  No tears at all this time. Her Mum’s smile was equally as big.  I didn’t know at the time, but the president of the RDA noticed the peaceful interaction taking place and secretly snapped a few pics (attached).  I think you can feel the peace when you look at them. 

EFL image 1

kazza 2

This is only the second time I have had the opportunity to share this with RDA clients and the first time was just as successful in that a young lady whom I have known for almost a year and has scarcely said two words to me, was talking to me and sharing her feelings about the horse she was grooming and leading during our session.  That session just opened her heart and brought out a different side in her.  I think that’s what being down on the ground with a horse sometimes does – opens your heart – and I wonder if it’s because our hearts are physically that much closer to theirs when we are standing beside them.  I certainly know that working with horses has re-opened my heart after being hurt so much in life.  Anyway, now that people are seeing the success of it, I am hoping we will see more EFL style work taking place for those who stand to benefit from it the most.

So Franklin, I once was the scared woman at your course clinging to a grey pony, but now I’m living 8 minutes from the State Equestrian Centre where I help care for our RDA Equine charges almost every day of the week as well as volunteer with our RDA clients when ever I can; I’m half way through my Equine Bowen Practitioner’s Course and there always seems to be dirt under my finger nails and on my face – and I couldn’t be happier.  I have such a long way to go with horsemanship and I know that I am just a baby, but I feel very fortunate to have received your guidance and to have seen what you can make happen between a horse and a child.  It inspires me constantly to think of those couple of lessons you took with the children at Capricorn, and each time I get the opportunity to take an EFL lesson myself, I am so pleased to find that some of that magic still takes place, even though it’s just me facilitating.  Of course I know that the real magic takes place between the horse and the person that needs it and I am just lucky to be witnessing that.

Me and my pony hope to see you again one day Franklin.  Thank you for being you and for sharing you with the rest of us.  We hope you’re well and happy and that your life is full of horsey goodness.

Rachel Pountney Cheshire