Athena Herd is really pleased to announce that it is currently taking applications for its next Accredited Equine Facilitated Learning Cohort scheduled for 2-5 July inclusive.
There is also the possibility of continuing to achieve our Accredited Equine Facilitated Practitioner Diploma.
Please note places on our training are limited to 10 people only and are subject to COVID-19. We will review the dates on a rolling monthly basis. If we are unable to run the training in July we will look to schedule the training during the first available month thereafter
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.
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.
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 athenaherd.org.uk 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.
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.
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?
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………..
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.
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……
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……
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Health and well-being can be described as the achievement and maintenance of physical fitness and mental stability. A more holistic definition can be health and well-being as the result of a combination of physical, social, intellectual and emotional factors.
Our origins at Athena Herd have focussed on the achievement of the physical and mental stability of our herd of horses through the encouragement of movement and choice. We encourage and promote natural movement in all that the herd does whether that be the ability to continuously forage for food and eat. Living as a herd member and having access to paddocks, a sand school, surfaced and natural tracks here at Athena Herd provides that all important mental stability for the herd.
Why is this authentic origin linked to whole health and wellbeing so important?
This engrained origin is now being recognised by the growing number of people that are becoming part of this community, part of our herd. The natural environment created initially only for the Athena Herd horses, is proving to be such an important nurturing space for the people through the ability to be immersed in nature, be part of our community, be supported in all that you do here with us and reach your true potential.
Why not visit athenaherd.org.uk to find out more?
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.