What great weather and what a wonderful time I had on Thursday being taught at an amazing equestrian centre outside Comber. By a horse.
I arrived at 9.30am and was greeted by June, the owner of the centre. June is also an Irish international show jumper. She introduced me to the other four students and we made our way down to the paddock where the horses were waiting for us. In the paddock there were nine horses ready to meet their pupils.
We were asked by June to introduce ourselves to the horses one by one. My heartbeat increased as I sided up to the majestic beasts. I approached each horse with a deep sense of respect. I introduced myself by saying: 'Hello, my name is Frank' and petted the horse's neck — with a certain apprehension.
We then had to lead and guide the horse through a maze of obstacles. My horse’s name was Jackson. June told us that we had to be confident as the horse picks up on our confidence and wants to be led. If the horse picks up on indecision it will wander off and do its own thing. I was successful in guiding Jackson through the maze.
We then were told to tie the horse up and to stand and breathe with the horse at the horse's pace. I put my hand under Jackson’s muzzle and felt his breath against my palm and as I watched his girth inflate and deflate, I mirrored this with my own breath. I then noticed Jackson's eyes closing and his head dropping as if he was going to sleep. This was amazing to witness.
Finally we had to get our horse to canter around us in the paddock and then get the horse to stop and canter the opposite way. June watched on and told us: 'Remember, the horse picks up on your confidence and wants to be led.'
Jackson trotted around me clockwise and then on my command turned and went anti-clockwise. June then told me to stop and go over to Jackson and pet him on the head and then turn and walk away and Jackson would follow. I did what she said and, sure enough, Jackson walked behind me knowing that I was his leader.
We returned to the workshop and June asked us to reflect on the day. I thought of how my mind was like Jackson's and wanted to be led. If I wasn’t in charge, my mind would wander off and do its own thing. I also told the group that I discovered that my breath was my halter which kept my mind under control.
If you ever get the chance to work with a horse, seize the opportunity – and be a good student as a horse will teach you how to be a confident leader.