Our Approach

There is a calmness that comes from connecting with an animal who is choosing to meet you, especially one who is so much your superior in size…it’s almost the only time my head has been quiet in years. No flashbacks, no fear, just smooth flanks, dappled sun, fearsome flies and dancing butterflies. I have always loved nature but had grown distant from it, now I am back connecting again. A start to the change.

Participant, Community Mental Health Course 2021

Compassionate Connection

Our social enterprise has been inspired by the way horses communicate with each other and with us. Our horses and ponies each have their own unique personalities and different styles of relating to people, which means that every encounter with a horse offers each person something new to explore. Over many years of studying and building our horsemanship practice, we have learned so much from horses that is valuable for our complex human lives and we are privileged to share our knowledge and wisdom so that others may benefit.

Many people wish to better understand who they are and wonder what they can do to improve their mental health. Ancient philosophies exploring the art of human flourishing begin with the idea that self-knowledge acts as a catalyst for change. Horsemanship starts with the principle that to understand horses you must know yourself. At Horsemanship for Health we have connected the two disciplines and woven into our curriculum insights and teachings from the fields of philosophy, psychology, ethology, neuroscience, inside-out coaching and research around improving mental health through connection to the natural world and animals. Our educational approach is accessible to all and our courses are free of charge through Devon Recovery Learning Community.

The word ‘health’ comes from a root word meaning wholeness. Our approach is to look to the horse to remind us that living a healthy life includes knowing that we do not need fixing. We can learn to live with the parts of our lives that we do not wish to show. The horse clearly accepts us as we are and is often delighted to meet us! Through non-judgemental connection with horses, we have an opportunity to explore a rich language without words.  Our participants experience the simple life of a horse at peace in the world and from this starting point come to view themselves more compassionately. Through reflection and enquiry, we support people to view themselves in a new light, to see their strengths and possibilities and to share with others their unique human story.

“I think the best way to describe the feeling is to imagine that your body is a container, like a big bottle or something, and usually the container is so clogged with black stuff and heavy thoughts, feelings, worries, etc. But being with the horses empties the container (you) and fills it with clear, crisp, fresh air and silk ribbons of feeling that drift and float through your body. All that’s left is you, your soul, your true self in perfect form., and that’s what Dragonfly picks up on and feels, and helps me feel too. The horses don’t judge you, they love you, and it’s beautiful.”

– Diane – not her real name.



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