When you hear hoofbeats…

don’t think zebras. Unless you’re in the African savanna. So it is with Equine Guided Education (EGE) and related fields of working with horses as teachers and healers. It is really quite simple: interacting with horses is eye-opening and therapeutic.

Through basic ground work activities, horses provide us opportunities to learn about everything from the effectiveness of our communication to recognizing the difference between what we think we should believe or feel and what we actually believe or feel. Signing up to experience EGE does not require any prior knowledge of horses or horsemanship on the part of the human participants. It requires a spirit of curiosity and a willingness to try doing things differently.

People often ask “what do you actually DO if you’re not riding?”

When you think about the process of going riding, the time spent actually riding the horse is often a fraction of the whole experience. Greeting the horse in the field or the barn, haltering him, leading him to the ready area, brushing him and cleaning his hooves, checking him over for any injuries or sensitive spots, tacking up, possibly lunging before riding, then afterwards, untacking, grooming again, checking hooves for rocks or footing debris, giving him a thank you snack, walking him back to his field or barn, releasing him and saying good-bye… all of this takes a large amount of time and energy. All of this also constitutes essential communication between you and the horse, and can create a bond and sense of trust that greatly assists and improves the riding experience.

All the things people can do with horses besides riding offer a plethora of ways to enjoy horses, bond with them, and learn from them. One of the wonderful things about working with horses in this manner is that such a broad spectrum of horses and people can participate. Plenty of elderly or previously injured horses can do the work. Plenty of elderly or previously injured people can, too.

One of my colleagues in EGE, Agus Vera Alemany, co-founded Terra de Cavalls, coaching “natural leadership guided by horses,” operating on the outskirts of fabulous Barcelona, Spain. Their website does a wonderful job of presenting their work,and in response to the question “Why horses?” the reply includes the following:

Throughout history, for human beings horses have represented the symbol of nobility, strength, beauty, capacity for sacrifice, curiosity, loyalty and sociability. Because of this, they enthuse us and challenge us to go after our dreams, broaden horizons, change beliefs and take a step beyond our “Comfort Zone”… The horse is an animal with a great ability to perceive our moods, our deepest unconscious, reacting by instinct to the energy we give off… When they decide to let people lead them, it is because they find in them an “authentic leader”, whose messages are clear and unambiguous , and who are secure and confident.

For full details about Terra de Cavalls, see http://www.terradecavalls.com/about-us/why-horses/?lang=en


  1. You bring up a good point; we can learn from all animals, and it’s gaining access to those animals in an environment where we can safely interact with them as they act and react to us in a natural, instinct-driven manner that becomes the challenge. Horses, even domesticated and trained, are hundreds of pounds of animal, acting on authentic instinct, and don’t underestimate the impact of their sheer size on the human being who is being asked to step outside of his or her comfort zone and to be open and honest.

  2. I think you can say the same thing about dogs. My 7-yr.-old Cairn Terrier exhibits almost “human” tendencies. While he acknowledges our “leadership,” he has his own way of demonstrating his “independence.” But when push comes to shove, it is all about “treats” and “food.” He seems to have an internal clock that tells him when to be sitting by the kitchen for his daily walks. This means giving him a treat and then putting on his harness and leash. The rest of the time, he is an unabashed lazy canine, stretched out on the couch, my chair, or the bed. You can learn as much from dogs as you can from horses–and I like both!

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