Graeme Green

4 posts

Exciting new funded community project

Athena Herd CIC is very pleased to announce a new project with Crossways Community. Crossways Community is a Christian charity which provides housing and support for adults suffering from a range of mental illnesses.

This project aims to provide dedicated service to the client group of Crossways Community Culverdale and so is focused specifically around that need. Their client group is vulnerable adults aged 18 to 65 that experience moderate to acute mental health challenges. Most specifically general anxieties, depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and personality disorders.

Working alongside the Athena Herd of horses, we are seeking to support the development and strengthening of personal confidence and self-esteem. In addition, to help establish safe means of boundary setting and stronger communication of personal need.

Jennifer Geach, co-founder of Athena Herd says: “Working with horses is a very immediate and effective way of building tools and skills, strategies and coping mechanisms, all of which facilitate individual strength and resilience.”

The value of this work is similarly reflected by Natalie Wenham at Crossways: “We are very excited to be part of Athena Herd’s pilot project and for some of our residents to be able to experience the therapeutic benefits of being with their horses, facilitated by their skilled and dedicated team.”

Everyone at Athena Herd and Crossways Community are very grateful to the Kent Community Foundation and Gatwick Foundation Fund for providing a grant that makes this important and valuable work possible.




Please note: The start of this project has been deferred because of the Covid-19 Pandemic but we are all looking forward to commencing at the first possible opportunity. Watch this space!


Why study with Athena Herd?

Athena Herd is a natural place to learn.

Founded upon a strong ethos of animal welfare and wellbeing it creates a unique environment from which to experience the relational dynamics of human interaction with horses. As such, it is the perfect place to undertake the journey of developing the skills needed to become an Equine Facilitated Practitioner.

The course has been designed by the Athena Herd Team which together has a wealth of combined expertise and includes Graeme Green from The Mindful Horse. Graeme has 10 years international experience facilitating horse-human interactions, which vary from Mediation retreats to Corporate and Executive coaching. The diversity of character of the horses that make up the Athena herd ensures that diversity of approach and experience can be explored.

This course is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself and develop the resources required to build a professional practice of your own.

The learning pathway draws together facilitated theory sessions, practical interaction with the horses, self-study and individual case studies. The Athena herd team will share insight and experience, as well as providing direct and remote oversight and supervision.

The Athena Herd Equine Facilitated Learning Certificate

We have designed the programme to enable flexibility in delivery and development. The first 4 day onsite module represents a single stand alone Certification in Equine Facilitated Learning. Students can study this certificate alone, or continue on with the full Practitioner diploma.

Let us share with you, one person’s learning experience from 2019: “The topics we covered were nicely paced and were reassuringly supported with neurological/academic/theoretical premise. This resonated with me as it provided a basis of learning. Not only did I learn from yourself as leader but from the fellow participants in a welcoming and comfortable setting. It was a lovely, honest, relaxing and safe space to practice the concepts introduced to us.”  –(Annette, Surrey). She continues: “the take home practical guide and reference material meant the course learning could easily become new daily practices and habits.”

In a hurry? Then please watch our short video.

Continuing your studies: the Practitioner Diploma

Those continuing with the diploma will undertake a number personal and private case studies. These will be supported throughout by action learning, and one to one supervision. The final part of the Diploma will again be onsite at Athena.

The full diploma also reaches beyond the theory and practice of Equine Facilitation and provides outline and direction which is needed to set up and run your own business.

The facilitation team throughout the Diploma will be Jennifer Geach, Graeme Green and Maria Carlsbad. Please visit our team page to find out more about their skills and experiences.

The whole team looks forward to meeting you in the future.

Come and develop your professional practice at a natural place to learn.

Email us now at

Athena Herd is an organisational member of BACP and ACCPH. All of our qualifications are accredited externally with ACCPH.

efl in the board room

Lets talk about the horse in the (board) room

It’s not only the elephants.

How often do we let the important questions go unasked? Or awkwardly or politely talk around the real-issues? How often do we feel unable to challenge behaviour, performance or opinions?

It is difficult enough amongst peers, but what about in the leadership hierarchy or upwardly within the organisational structure of businesses?

Leaders need feedback too.

It is rare that we feel courageous enough to speak truth to authority or perceived superiority. So points that we might otherwise freely express remain unaddressed, but they do not go away.

Neuroscientists have proved through fMRI work that “what we resist, persists”. In fact they recognise that when we attempt to divert or suppress issues then we imbue them with greater strength. So avoided, or suppressed topics fester, often growing in strength.

We need to create safe space where truth or concerns can be aired. Without it, personal or organisation performance can be under-mined and individual well-being compromised.

What has this to do with horses?

Horses are spared the over-rationalising or contemplation that so often ties up the human brain. They are more honest and connected with what we would define as the intuitive. As such, they can show us how we are.

In so doing they can speak truth to power; title, experience and relative position are superfluous. A horse will not fail to indicate when there is an elephant in the room.

The Equine Facilitated Learning process represents the ultimate experiential 360° appraisal, reflecting without judgement who we are and how we are, in the moment; their sensitivity can give us a running commentary on our mindset, our demeanour and our behaviour. And when we decide to act or change the way we are coming across, their honest and immediate commentary continues.

The nature of the horse – a herd based, flight animal – carries an awareness and presence which is connected to the energies and intentions of the situation and those around it. Within the immediate honesty of their behaviour lies an invitation to change.

“That’s just how he is at work”

Peter (not his real name) is CEO of a large international property firm. When invited to carry out a task with a horse, he grabbed the rope and marched off – the horse eventually, with some reluctance followed, largely as he was now at the end of an ever-tightening rope. His options were limited.

Something was missing here.

I asked his colleagues what they saw – “oh that’s just how is with us in the board room”. We all laughed.

This short interaction facilitated a discussion around the need to develop connection and how performance can be changed in context. The situation offered a safe opportunity to shine a light on individual default behaviour; much more importantly, here was a chance for Peter to enact the change that was needed – to role model a change of behaviour.

Peter returned to the task, but this time established a connection before making any demands of the horse; pausing to develop relationship and engage his equine counterpart in the interaction. Thus revisited, the horse responded positively and accompanied Peter in his task without resistance.

And then we added colleagues – and then we added obstacles. Around the horse we brought the team back together. There they found time to recognise themselves and roles – they found space to work together and acknowledge their individual and often complementary skills. All the time the horse quietly worked with the team and remained comfortable staying within the group.

Beyond the constraint of language

Communication is not just language. Our actions and behaviours reflect our intentions as much as our words. And sometimes more so.

The Equine Facilitated Learning process provides a fast-track connection.

Human beings need congruency between word and deed, instruction and action. Matthew Lieberman in Social (OUP, 2015) talks about the growing research in social neuroscience which explores the connectivity between our brains, he outlines the potential negative impact of someone reacts presented with incongruence in another. We must be aligned in mind and body.

As much as we might talk around leadership and change, in practice they are much more than instruction or commitment. Change requires action. It is about being different and that is more than a cognitive exercise. We need to embody the change; “be the change that you wish to see”, to paraphrase Gandhi.

Beside the horses we connect with communication beyond the spoken word. We get to see safely and without judgement what in the “Johari Window” model we might call our “unseen self”.

As a team working with Peter, we observed more of the horse than the human. The horse’s response highlighted the clumsiness of the initial attempt to lead. In this open and neutral environment, the team were able to acknowledge and question behaviour in a way that might not have been so welcome in the boardroom. Here was an opportunity to change. The horse acknowledged this and immediately reflected that change.

Both CEO and team now have a simple anchor to reflect on, a gentle reminder of the need to build connection, as a foundation for clear communication and instruction.

So how does it work?

Equine Facilitated Learning is experiential. This means the learner is placed at the heart of the process, and as such it represents a personal commitment where the learner is empowered to drive the process based on their own requirements or aspirations.

The learning is somatic –involving the whole body. It draws our full consciousness into the process: cognitive, emotional and corporeal. It enables us to recognise the full physicality of our behaviours; and it offers us a safe space to model and embody any necessary shift.

It is an opportunity to consider both problem and solution, to review options and model change in real-time. Alongside the horses we create a clean physical space which is unencumbered by the baggage of existing relationships and or familiarity of location.

The horse most importantly offers honest and non-judgemental interaction. As we have seen, it does not concern itself with titles or hierarchies, it simply reflects how we are. It shows us the “horse” in the room. And in so doing it presents feedback; armed with that feedback we are invited to change.

This article was originally written for (and published in) The Executive Magazine (Dec. 2017) by Graeme Green of The Mindful Horse.

Click here to link to the original article.

Science and the benefits of drumming

This is a guest blog written by Graeme Green of The Mindful Horse, who is one of the facilitators at this August’s Wellbeing Retreat – click here for retreat info – or read on ….


Anyone that attends any of my workshops will know how strongly I feel about the power of drumming. Part of that passion lies in drumming as a connection with generations passed. If we look through the lens of Rupert Sheldrake’s principle of Morphic Resonance, it becomes a ritual connecting human communities through thousands of years, no different to Thanksgiving or Christmas.

This collective exploration of rhythm and movement excites and engages, whether it be the social gathering to drum and dance binding the community together, or the trance-inducing beat that drove the shaman to trance.
Rhythm surrounds us in life, from the moment of our conception when we are connected to the heartbeat of our mother. Yet today, as we rush around on engaged in busy-ness of perpetual distractions, those sounds simply pass us by. As in our meditations, the act of drumming grounds us once again in the moment, and when we are with others it weaves us into the communal. We re-connect with social roots of our humanity.

As someone who works with drum-healing I am very excited to see that scientific research is also beginning to recognise the therapeutic and healing value of drum work (as well as other sound/vibrational based interventions). The Royal College of Music (2016) has shown “making music can be a powerful tool for promoting mental health and contributes to a wider evidence base around music and wellbeing” to quote Aaron Williamon, professor of Performance Science at RCM.

The research found specifically that a 10-week programme of group drumming reduced depression by 38 per cent and anxiety by 20 per cent; further they found that the same programme can also improve social resilience by 23 per cent and mental wellbeing by 16 per cent.

The RCM research cites the linkage between mental health conditions, including depression, and inflammation in the immune system. The subtle vibrational of drumming has been shown to be an effective treatment because it helps to release and decrease such inflammation.

New York based psychotherapist Robert Lawrence Friedman was one of the first formal researchers into the Graeme Green and The Mindful Horse at Athenarelationship between wellness and drumming, establishing a link between drumming and the individuals T cell count. “When people drum, something happens to their brain that only happens when people are drumming together or when people are in deep meditation,” he explained. “The brain usually operates with either the left or right side independently. People generally cycle in 20 minutes per side. But when drumming, we experience something called hemispheric synchronization, where both sides work at the same time…. people feel two opposite emotions simultaneously: energized and relaxed.”

This finding was supported in 2001 publication by Dr. Barry B. Bittman. This study showed that there was a significant boost in the activity of “cellular immune components responsible for seeking out and destroying cancer cells and viruses were noted in normal subjects who drummed.”

In short, drumming can increase the presence of T-cells, the white blood cell that fights viruses.

The direct emotional impacts of drumming are also well documented, quite simply, it makes you happy. Drumming is known to release endorphins, which are associated with general feelings of well-being and euphoria, as well as the natural pain-relief effect of endorphins and endogenous opiates.

Drumming induces deep relaxation; in one US study, blood samples from participants who participated in an hour-long drumming session revealed a reversal in stress hormones; in my own experience those I have spent time with have often reported improved and less disturbed sleep patterns following drum work.

Drumming also produces a strong sense of community and connectedness, that bond boosts our Oxytocin levels. Drumming circles and group drumming classes provide an opportunity for “synchronicity” in that you connect with your own self at a deeper level while also connecting with other like-minded people.

Beyond my Reiki healing work, as a mindfulness practitioner I never question the drum as a means of grounding people in the present moment – even in the simplest engagement when its rhythm forms the meditation object. I regularly see its power to de-stress, to calm and to relax.

Personally, I never travel without a drum. It brings life, happiness and healing wherever it goes. To see that science is beginning to bring repeatable proof to the table is wonderful. Still, those of us that engage with rhythm have know if for ages (LOL).

Graeme Green