19 posts

Athena Herd working with the community

Athena Herd CIC is passionate about working with the community. We recently completed programme of Equine Facilitated Learning with residents of the Crossways Community. This was a strong example of this. We are very grateful to the Kent Community Foundation and Gatwick Foundation for providing the funding for this work.

The programme worked with a small group of centre residents with differing mental health challenges. They were accompanied onsite by centre staff. Each of the sessions were a blend of group-discussion, mindfulness and equine facilitated learning.

Our objectives for the programme were to develop the following:

  • Self-awareness of energetic and emotional states, and the managing and changing of them.
  • Self-confidence and being able to acknowledge and respect oneself. Including assertiveness (with horses) and so maintain boundaries and stand up for self.
  • Stronger communication skills, issue clear and effective instructions and recognise feedback.
  • Greater strengths and resilience in a social situation.

Our approach was to create a space which facilitated a safe foundation of non-judgemental self-awareness. We then built upon this, introducing tools that they could work with in everyday situations. They were then given the chance to practice working with these tools alongside the Athena Herd.

Exciting feedback

The feedback back from attendees – both staff and residents – has been extremely positive. A strong testament to the value of our approach to this work.

All of those attending reported a development of self-awareness. Similarly they all benefited from the tools and techniques that were shared with them. They also reported an increase in personal confidence – both individually and socially.

One reported that they had discovered how using these approaches could transform a potentially stressful situation into one of pleasure.

Similarly, there was a consistent reflection from the group around the positive effects of being in the presence of horses. How connecting with them created a calmness, and helped build trust and confidence.

As an experiential learning process each session included a reflective discussion. That discussion was framed in such a way as to draw parallels between the onsite experience and everyday life.

From the staff too

The supporting staff from Crossways were really impressed with the engagement of the groups. “It was so good to see all of our residents progressing with their self-confidence. Being so engaged with and responsive to the work you were doing.”

They continue to summarise the value of the on-site experience. “The unique aspect of this work was the experience the staff at Athena brought to the sessions. Combined with the interaction with the horses themselves.  This is not something that can be replicated in the residents own home environment as it is an experience in itself.  The tools can be learnt and applied of course, like relaxation and grounding techniques. However, the most important aspects come from the experience of being at Athena itself.”

If you would like to know more about how we can support your community or organisation please visit our page or email us on:

Once again, we would like to express our thanks (and on behalf of the Crossways Community) to Kent Community Foundation and The Gatwick Foundation.


A great experience from afar

We have been approached many times about delivering qualifications online. Athena Herd CIC is a very client focussed organisation and we have always wanted to support this.

If ever the time felt right to explore this approach then 2020 was. Like so many around the world our worlds had moved into virtual spaces of Zoom and MS Teams. As active advocates of experiential learning, this shift to cyberspace engaged our curiosity. Our collective neurons fired up and we got creative.

After a few long discussions, quite a bit of software build, and liaison with ACCPH – our accrediting body – our Online Certificate in Equine Facilitated Learning was born.


It was not without a little trepidation that in late July we sat down in front of a laptop and big screen TV and opened up the Zoom session. Our online Certificate in Equine Facilitated Learning had begun. Around two and  half hours later, we knew this was going to be a success. Boom!

Our approach drew together an online learning module on our website, Zoom, video, WhatsApp and all the standard learning materials that we provide for this qualification. All of this brought to life by an incredible and engaging group of delegates – all as determined to make this a success as we were.

Six weeks later we are very pleased to confirm that this early positiveness was certainly not unfounded, if anything it was understated!


We were blown away by the experience. There were a few glitches early on but the responsiveness of our team and the support of our delegates overcame these with little delay. From our perspective our approach and the supporting materials made this a very effective delivery.

But what did our delegates think of the experience? Well we always think the most important voice is that of the client, so here are a few extracts from our learners’ feedback.

Distance is the noun to describe how far apart things are in space.  Distance learning with Athena Herd may have had us some 420 miles apart. But completing the course this way has allowed me to learn and develop in my own environment with my own horses. This allowed us to start our journey together in Equine Facilitated Learning.”

I have been thoroughly impressed with the professionalism, values, skills and experience. As well as the flexible & adaptable approach that the team offer. The course has provided  a very safe, open and non-judgemental space. It was a much valued time for personal reflection and personal growth. They created a unique learning opportunity with the deep and insightful learnings from colleagues.

The support I received from Jennifer and Graeme was pitched perfectly to help me learn, develop and explore my thinking.  They have started a great foundation for me to build upon! As a distanced group we focused intensely during our meetings, we became one.  We built a family that encouraged one another, offered advice and shared our personal insights from different backgrounds. 


At Athena Herd CIC we always emphasize the value and contribution of a diverse team bringing complementary skills and backgrounds to the learner’s experience. It was never more so than in this case.

We are very proud of what we have created in this online programme, enabling us to reach out to learners around the world. Without the diverse skills we would not have created something so effective. It is a great testament to what can be achieved when we work together. A simple learning that reflects that which the horses demonstrate daily on our barefoot track system.

We would like to share a big “thank you” to our learners who made this happen and breathed incredible life and enthusiasm into it.

From our perspective online is now a core part of any Athena Herd offering. To this end we are running a second online cohort this Autumn, starting on 10th October 2020.

Why not join us?




Let us come to you – distance learning with Athena Herd

We are very excited to be able offer a new distance learning version of our Certificate in Equine Facilitated Learning.

In discussion with clients over the last 6 months it has become clear that their is a strong appetite for a distance learning option. To that end we have worked with ACCPH to create a remote version.

This aligns both in structure and content to studying with us onsite. Our motivation behind creating this specific programme was to ensure that participants had common experience. For both as a group and individual learners.

The distance learning programme starts this July – click here.

This programme is a combination of interactive online learning, self study and practice. Delegates will also need to complete a number of video sessions from “home” in support of their own progress and learning.

Like the onsite Certificate this programme also serves as a foundation for the Level 4 Diploma course. So for those of you completing the online study, you can still come and join us to complete your Diploma training.




Next Athena Herd Training Programmes

Athena Herd is really pleased to announce that it is currently taking applications for:

*10 October 2020 Interactive Distance Learning Accredited Equine Facilitated Learning Training Programme;

* 19-22 November 2020 on-site Accredited Equine Facilitated Learning Training Programme;

*18-21 March 2021 on-site Accredited Equine Facilitated Learning Training Programme;

*09-12 September 2021 on-site Accredited Equine Facilitated Learning Training Programme.

There is also the possibility of continuing to achieve our Accredited Equine Facilitated Practitioner Diploma.

Please note places on our training are limited.  Places booked during 2020 shall be priced at our 2020 pricing.


Team Huddles versus Herd Huddles: safety in numbers in isolation

What has all of this got to do with Equine Facilitated Learning, I hear you ask.

Interestingly my reflection on ‘huddles’ started with the horses.  However, this was only after the Legal, Risk and Compliance team that I work in in the City of London, shortly prior to working from home, diarised weekly Team Huddles to be held first thing on a Monday morning.

efl huddle

This has since become a daily 10:00am Virtual Team Huddle during this period of physical isolation.

I also understand that the management team are holding a daily early morning Virtual Leadership Huddle to keep management coordinated, focused and efficient while in physical isolation.  This information flow then filters down to the individual Virtual Team Huddles helping each team within the organisation be kept informed, more effective and collaborative.  I understand that Team Huddles generally are a great way of fostering a positive culture with open communication, improving morale, motivation and productivity in the workplace.  I understand that some teams have even been having Virtual Quiz evenings.

I am so fortunate that during this period of isolation for many, I live in a beautiful property surrounded by approximately 17 acres of land and can gaze outside the windows during my virtual working day and experience nature and animals.  What I mean by experience is that I am not only able to see nature but also hear the noise of birds, the neighboring lambs and Cockerels.  Smell the cut grass, the spring flowers, even the animals .  I am virtually working in the City yet physically present and noticing nature.

efl horses

I have seen many people referring to our animals during this time as being unaware of this pandemic.  Whilst I believe that maybe our animals are not aware of the pandemic per se, they are living in the presence of many of us establishing a very different routine in uncertain times.  Life in our household today is somewhat different as well as being the same.  I am fortunate to be able to work from home, our little boy, up until this week, has been carrying on with his school work at home.  We are very grateful that the people that help us with looking after our horses are also with us in isolation.  This has meant that myself and my husband have been able to carry on with our day jobs, Thomas his schooling and all of our animals continue to be cared for in exactly the same way.  There is something about, at least in our household, safety in numbers in isolation.

As mentioned above, what I have found interesting about my reflection on ‘huddles’, both Team Huddles and Herd Huddles, is that it was the power of the horses that really got me noticing and thinking about all of this after observing the Athena Herd of horses last week end.  We opened up a new part of our Equine Track System here at Athena Herd (see for more information about how our Athena Herd of horses live).  The horses grouped together investigating their new space (a disrupter in their routine).  The horses here at Athena Herd live in a sense in isolation in the form of a settled herd living as naturally as possible on an equine track system.  The herd seems to take a kind of safety in numbers approach when faced with uncertainty and change.  They all huddle together (picture below taken when we opened up this new space).  Some of the horses interestingly displayed sudden behavior change due to the changes that we made to their environment and routine.

EFL horse huddle

If you compare the above picture with the picture below taken just three days later, aside from that amazing blue sky, the overall need for a Herd Huddle seems to have diminished.  Gradually each herd member has worked out his/her own safe space, amounting maybe to a form of social distancing, making daily choices around where to hang out and with whom to interact.  At times there may still be a need for a Herd Huddle: keeping each other informed of important information through the sharing of collective intelligence even routine i.e. look the humans are out filling up the hay supply, its time for breakfast, lets scratch each other’s backs to get rid of that winter coat, lets move to the barn for shelter as it is going to rain, lets spend some time socialising.  Horses are highly aware of their surroundings and live very much ‘in the moment’.  They live in the now, are present and connect with nature.

EFL Relaxed

So moving back to where I began: Team Huddles versus Herd Huddles: safety in numbers in isolation and what is the significance of Equine Facilitated Learning? Experiential learning if you like with horses.

My understanding is that holding “huddles” on a regular basis can create a sense of unity and positive culture with open communication.  As is the case with any meeting, both in the corporate and Equine Facilitated Learning space there is the importance of having a ‘facilitator’ to keep things on track and on time.  There is an element of routine required in both for example in the corporate space it is good to start and end a huddle at the same time every day, first thing in the morning often works best as it gives members a chance to share their priority for that day.  Clarity is of great importance in both: understanding who is doing what and how it fits in with the vision of the organisation, in managing expectations for example.  Being present is another important factor in both, either physically or virtually, having the opportunity to contribute to the vision.

When ‘huddles’ are used correctly they can really help to drive results.

Have you considered preparing your team for change through experiences with horses?

EFL Corporate workshop



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!


It’s in our nature

It’s in our nature………..

Jennifer and Thomas Geach

Our little boy was born September 2012.

Why is this significant?

Katarina Felicia Lundgren from the MiMer Centre during the recent training that we hosted at Athena Herd talked about and recently shared a post on facebook called the “Imitation Game”. Reminding us that we are all minds in motion and when we enter this world (both humans and animals) we use imitation.

Becoming a parent can give us an amazing opportunity, if embraced, to be reminded of this process of imitation that we may find ourselves doing throughout our lifetime either consciously or subconsciously depending on the position we find ourselves in.

Have you ever thought or said out loud, gosh I sound like/I am becoming my mother/grandmother/father? I know I have.

I acknowledge that I am a reflection of my own experience gained from those that have been in my life both personally and professionally and wow that is a very profound consideration.

The significance, therefore, of becoming a parent back in 2012 is of huge significance here.

We have embraced parenthood. Our child is very much part of our lives, we haven’t, in the most part, changed our life to fit in with him. A dear friend said to me not so long ago, you come as a three. Whether this is because we had our child that bit later in life or it
has just been a conscious decision, who knows. Our approach to parenthood has meant that we have been fortunate enough to really observe, reflect and embrace the experience.

The day our child was born, I wondered how I could ever love anyone else as much. I thought to myself, how do people go on to have multiple children?

Myself and my husband have had quite a few chuckles along our journey of parenthood because of the imitating behaviour. Goodness how aware am I as a parent of our child imitating, mimicking if you like, both mine and my husbands behavior. Experiencing each stage of development and learning has been and continues to be a gift. This “Imitation Game” as described by Katarina really does seem to be ….in our nature.

Whilst considering that written in Katarina’s post and my own experiences of observing this so-called “Imitation Game” as a parent, it is notable that this skill, if you like, seems to be something that we are born with and either consciously or subconsciously stays with us throughout our lives.

…and beyond…..

Considering this further, I am amazed by every unique interaction we have with our horses at Athena Herd. Having
multiple horses I am also very aware that I love each one so very much just in very different ways. I also recognise just how powerful the work we do with horses really is. Whether that be an individual or group learning and
development interaction. Whether that be “labelled” as “Equine Facilitated Learning”, “coaching”, “counselling”, “psychotherapy” “hypnotherapy” or even “leadership” work. Isn’t this an engrained “Imitation Game” that comes into all of our life experiences, given that it is in our nature?

Labels: “Equine Facilitated Learning”, “Coaching”, “Counselling”, “Psychotherapy” “Hypnotherapy” or even “Leadership” work……

Delving, therefore, a little more into this “Imitation Game”, is there really a fundamental difference?

Why do we look to “label” the learning in a horse environment as “Equine Facilitated Learning”, “Coaching”, “Counselling”,
“Psychotherapy” “Hypnotherapy” or even “Leadership” work? I am not considering the specific training required to becoming a Counsellor or even a Lawyer. I am talking about tapping into those core skills that one looks to learn from birth, which we have considered here as the “Imitation Game”. This is our rationale at Athena Herd for our accredited Equine Facilitated Practitioner training.  Part of this journey could then well be going on to specialize through choice and further studies to become a mental health professional, a coach, a leader in a corporate environment. Isn’t this how we progress through our GCSEs, A Levels, Degrees, Masters Degrees?

Is it fair to state that even if you are a “Coach” or “Legal Counsel” or have run your own business your team and/or
colleagues and/or employees and/or suppliers may face mental health and wellbeing challenges? Being able to connect with, build a relationship with, offer support and guidance presumably could well be a life skill derived from the “Imitation Game” right? Or do we absolutely need to be a qualified “Counsellor” or “Psychotherapist” to recognise and support such a colleague/individual? As a Senior lawyer I often work with business people looking for legal support but ultimately the decision to go ahead and sign the contract is a business/commercial risk decision.  Not a legal one.  One of those identified grey area. Having said this, even though I am a qualified Solicitor where do my commercial, relationship building, resilience, brand protection/approach skills
come from? Does it all come from my legal training?  Or the so-called “Imitation Game”? Or both?

What about “coaching” someone to realise their dream job/career? If you do a quick internet search “Top tips” can include appearance, personal brand if you like, posture, looking the interviewee in the eye, smiling, good handshake, connection, be authentic – again does this come from specialized training or is it the learned behaviour gained through the “Imitation Game”? Or both?

Athena Herd Equine Facilitated Practitioner a combination of the “Imitation Game” and a qualification…its in our nature……

Cuddles with Marzipan at Athena


Magic Mirror

The Evil Queen in front of the Mirror
Mirror in a 1916 illustration

The Magic Mirror is a mystical object that is featured in the story of Snow White and used by the Evil Queen in order to find out who is the “fairest of them all”.

So why am I writing about this Magic Mirror in the context of Equine Facilitated Learning/Psychotherapy work?

This topic came up during a recent discussion at Athena Herd.

I read and hear so many people referring to a horse as a mirror. So are we saying that a horse is an object that we use to determine who is the “fairest of them all”? Or is there more to it?

So it would seem that some of the real life influences around Snow White have come from for example Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina von und zu Erthal. Her step mother was domineering and greatly favored the children from her first marriage. The upper right corner of “The Talking Mirror” contains a clear reference to self-love. Is this what we mean by referring to a horse as a mirror?

Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Magic Mirror contained an imprisoned spirit. How does this fit into Equine Facilitated Learning/Psychotherapy work?

The Magic Mirror also appears in Snow White and the Huntsman. Moving to the prequel/sequel of The Huntsman: Winter’s War, the Magic Mirror is revealed to hold darker forms of magic. Freya learns the truth about her sister’s role in the death of her daughter. Ravenna, her sister, becomes the mirror spirit so bound to answer Freya’s questions truthfully prompting Freya to aid Eric in destroying the Mirror at the cost of her own life The final scene, however, shows a golden raven flying away, suggesting that a part of the mirror, thus Ravenna, may have survived.

So why do so many people refer to a horse as a mirror in Equine Facilitated Learning/Psychotherapy work?

Is a horse an object? Or is a horse more than that? A Magic Mirror maybe? A Magic Mirror that is not just about objectifying external beauty but really looking within us to bring out our potential ……. making us the “fairest of them all” or quite simply ……the best that we can be……