Posted by John Borst on Dec 09, 2018
“Why Horses?” is the most frequent question Joyce and Meagan Gardner get asked when they describe what they do at Horseshoe Connections, an Equine-Assisted Learning Ranch.
Horseshoe Connections was founded six years ago when the Gardners bought the old Minnitaki store and converted it into a working ranch with nine horses, plus the obligatory cat and dog.
Although they provide typical horse riding lessons, the most interesting part of their business involves Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL).
EAL is a powerful, professional and effective approach to learning which has proven to have a positive impact on individuals of all ages. As the name implies, Equine-Assisted Learning includes horses in specially-designed experiential learning exercises. This hands-on approach to learning has proven to greatly multiply the participant's retention and understanding of skills learned. It consists of a curriculum that drives objectives to outcomes. The design of each exercise takes the form of a BUILDING BLOCK (TM).
The curriculum is client-centred, using horses as barometers and facilitators as guides to encourage self-examination. EAL can take an individual through a powerful journey of learning and understanding.
The 2019 programs will include an anti-bullying program of 8 weeks, a “power within” program dealing with internal anxieties and negative images, and a two-day weekend program for women.
All program teachings will incorporate the 7 Grandfather teachings of the Anishinabe - Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, and Truth
The Gardners provided many reasons:
  • Horses are sensitive, aware of their surroundings and quick to react.
  • They watch for the slightest movement and look for threatening body posture.
  • Horses know how to discern the difference between a calm, non-threatening approach and anxious, nervous energy. However, every horse is different just as each person is unique.
  • In a horse’s world, the boundaries are clear and easy to understand.
  • Horses look for strong leadership and are willing to follow after they find respect and trust. If we provide contradictory behaviour, they start to question and challenge our authority to lead.
  • In a horse’s world, teamwork is expected and respected.
  • Horses respect fair consequences.
  • Horses cannot lie or over think a situation. They approach honestly to every interaction. Learning to listen to what horses have to say is powerful and can sometimes be the catalyst to individual change.
  • Horses react to stimulus and provide a skilled facilitator with an opportunity to use the horse as a barometer.
  • By their intuitive nature, horses can provide facilitators with a window into the participant’s personality. Through the discovery of how sensitive horses are, how kind and forgiving they can be, we can guide participants to become better individuals through identifying specific horse behaviours.
  • Bidirectional “healing” happens when we are near horses. According to researchers, their heart has a larger electromagnetic field and a higher level of intelligence than the brain: A magnetometer can measure the heart’s energy field is radiating up to 8 to 10 feet around the human body. While this is certainly significant, it is perhaps more impressive that an electromagnetic field projected by the horse’s heart is five times larger than the human one (imagine a sphere-shaped field that surrounds you). The horse’s electromagnetic field is also stronger than ours and can directly influence our heart rhythm!