How a horse whispering holiday in the UK changed my life by Alison Ball

“Sitting in a field in rural Hampshire watching a clamour of rooks fly back to their roosts, I listen to my three horses munch grass in the fading light. I look up at Joss with pride and think would I ever have bought you if it wasn’t for Intelligent Horsemanship and that week of discovery?”

Sitting in a pub garden in leafy, rural Oxfordshire watching a clamour of rooks fly back to their roosts I wait for my fellow ‘whisperers’ to arrive. I’m feeling elated by the dream that I’m living, but there’s also a hint of sadness that tonight will be our last evening together. Tomorrow there will inevitably come the time to say goodbye to my newfound friends, as we all return back to the reality of our everyday lives.

The week had brought revelations, self-discovery, confidence, lasting friendships, positivity and bags of uninhibited laughter.

A Week’s holiday in the UK with horses

I was looking for a week’s break in the UK and preferably with horses. I don’t know about you, but the idea of a lying on a beach or by a pool just isn’t my thing. Other options included maybe a trekking holiday, but it’s a gamble – what if the horses are mistreated or the people are unfriendly, or the group mismatched by level of riding or confidence?

My dream was of an activity holiday with well cared for horses, where I was surrounded with like-minded people with a positive outlook, where I would learn a new skill, be educated and feel richer from the whole experience.

After all:

“If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna make a dream come true?”

The dream horse holiday

During the week we will be discussing as many aspects of horse behaviour and how the horse’s own language (body language) works between you and the horse, in practice. Not only will you have the opportunity to enter a round pen and achieve a “Join Up” with a horse but there will also be other hands on experiences with horses outside of a pen, including halter work, long lining all backed up with lectures and demonstrations over five days.

This would be an activity holiday with a difference. The idea of being able to learn the language of the horse sounded to me like a fundamental that everyone associated with horses should know. Or even those not connected to horses. As it transpired, there was one person on my course who self-confessed as to not knowing “one end of a horse from another”.  They simply wanted to learn what is was that the horse possesses that is so addictive to the human. Churchill was so right when he said:

“There is something about the outside of the horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

Winston Churchill
The Horse Whisperers

After initial introductions, it was clear that even for someone a little insular and not particularly confident in groups of more than two, that I was going to be made to feel very at home with both, my instructors and fellow students – all thirteen of them.

You know that moment when you meet someone and instantly think ‘This is someone I’m going to get on well with?’. It happens quite infrequently apparently. Well, imagine that you’ve been put into a room with 13 people who you feel this immediate affinity with! Although a wide range of ages and experience with horses, I think that the very nature of the course attracts a mindset. Unlike motorcycling (another hobby of mine) that attracts all walks of life, characters and beliefs, I found that this particular experience attracted more people like me – People that pursued their dreams, asked questions and wanted to discover new experiences and learn for themselves rather than to follow blindly conventional avenues.

The instructors were in a class of their own (not literally). To be a good Coach, is a fantastic skill that takes patience and emotional intelligence. As with the horses, they knew exactly how to tap into our innate animal instincts to cause us to enjoy every moment of the experience with positive strokes. It’s as if you didn’t notice the teaching at all, only the learning.

The horses

Having attended the course to learn the language of the horse, these school masters certainly had a lot to say. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that one of my most poignant life lessons would have come for a horse, called Sarah.

The horse is a flight animal and as such is very in tune with its senses and surroundings, which includes reading us simple minded humans. If we feel fear, so do they. If we feel excited, they do to. Whether it’s a quickening of a heartbeat, the smell of adrenaline, a holding of breath or an undetectable by the human eye muscle movement in your body, the horse will read you like a book and mirror the energy that they perceive. All very useful when on an American plain and needing a red alert signal from your fellow grazers – “I smell fear chaps. Time to head for the hills!”.

Sarah taught me that although I saw myself as being shy, quiet and lacking confidence in all areas of my life that she and others’ perception of me was quite different. It was a shock, but a life changing insight.

A Self Discovery Holiday with a Warning!

On arrival we joked that the course came with a Warning. It seemed that previous attendees would return home with a clearer vision of how they saw their future selves. There’re stories that some would quit their job, move house, or leave life long partners. I can’t quite pinpoint why, but I’d guess that it’s the experience of being able to be totally yourself and discover the real YOU. I was once told by a professional coach that your perfect partner is someone you can be yourself with. So, imagine spending a whole week being with like-minded students, instructors who will only praise and not criticise and horses who don’t judge but just reflect your emotions. By the end of the week you have such a clearer idea of who you are and what you want from life. I can now see why horses are used in therapy.

So how did it change my life?

Sitting in a field in rural Hampshire watching a clamour of rooks fly back to their roosts, I listen to my three horses munch grass in the fading light. I look up at Joss with pride and think would I ever have bought you if it wasn’t for Intelligent Horsemanship and that week of discovery?

Returning to reality for me meant, apart from prioritising what was important in life, deciding to buy my dream horse that I would train myself from scratch, using the skills that I learnt on that holiday and subsequent courses.

The Accommodation

Intelligent Horsemanship have a list of handpicked local B&Bs, Inns, Hotels or camp sites locally to suit every need. My stay was with a neighbour to the farm who after my subsequent eight visits has become a friend. (I’m afraid that once you’ve done the 5-day course, you will become addicted.)

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