Equine Experiential Education
By Guest Blogger Cathy Mahon, Harmony and Healing with Horses
Equine Experiential Education-Guiding the Discovery Horses have been a part of my life for the last 30 years. In the beginning, I was a typical horse owner, hoping to ride my horse on a regular basis in and outside of the protected area of an arena. My plan early on was to learn from the advice of various horse owners. Even when it worked, though, I felt an uneasiness about creating fear in another creature, so I could have a cooperative, submissive partner.
Becoming a Centered Riding instructor in 2009 changed my life. It put me on a journey of self-awareness and self- discovery that began with my own reflection on what it meant to be balanced and centered, not only with the horse, but in my life. The idea that I would consider the horse’s feelings and desires and be able to understand their nonverbal language put greater responsibility on my behavior instead of the horse’s. I learned that real contentment comes when you allow the experience of others to enhance and expand your own experience.
I then met Robin Gates as she shared her gift through Liberty Training. I knew I was seeing something spiritual. She approached with an openness that invited the horse into her space even as she asked permission to enter theirs. She called it a cord of connection and I found it magical. I had seen glimpses of this kind of interaction in my own work but only as a small part of my end goal in controlling the horse’s behavior. She created a sense of safety and comfort in their presence that tapped into a horse’s natural desire for a leader-not one who demands and controls a limited set of behaviors, but one who asks for a response, knowing how to reflect on the answer and adapt to it in the moment.
This approach to horses changed my behavior in and out of the arena. As a physician assistant, 25 years in practice, I was used to having the answers and giving what I thought was the best advice to patients who sought my services. I felt I knew what the best course of action was and when patients resisted my advice, I was content to move on to the next person, hoping to find someone who would find my answers sufficient, even brilliant. It was all about my needs, my ego, my choices.
I realized that I had been treating my horses the way I treated everyone in my life. I continued to explore the idea that horses, in their own natural state, will see the world as it is RIGHT NOW-no judgments, no comparisons, NO EGO! I listened and let them offer me their own suggestions as to how to best approach them. I learned to read their body language and interpret the physical, mental and emotional state that was reflected there. I accepted that I did not have all the answers and that it was okay to struggle in my search for one.
Experiential education is learning by doing with reflection from the horses. These sensitive, intelligent creatures respond to both positive and negative changes generated by a person’s body and behavior. People are more readily willing to accept feedback from a horse than they do from humans, as there is no judgment in the horse’s response. People trust the horse’s reflection as honest and direct. As we learn from the wisdom of the horse, we develop our intuition and create new possibilities for our lives. The activities are designed to highlight aspects of personal growth and turn it into a tool for empowerment to make things happen. You then have a chance to identify specific strategies for creating positive change that will benefit you today and in the future.
In 2015, I became a facilitator through the Equine Experiential Education Association. I have furthered my education through courses in personal coaching and by creating my own business Harmony and Healing with Horses offering classes and workshops here in the Pacific Northwest. It is now my purpose and my passion to guide the discovery of each person’s authentic and best self with my teacher, the horse
ABOUT CATHY MAHON: Cathy Mahon is a talented horsewoman who brings her lifelong love of horses and her passion for teaching & healing together to create amazing educational experiences. After graduating from Rutgers Medical School over 30 years ago,Cathy’s first career as a physician assistant gave her the knowledge and skill to care for people at all stages of life. A natural teacher and healer, she then found her true calling in the work of equine experiential education (E3 certified) after discovering that her “free time” with the horses led to enormous strides in her own personal development. She is dedicated to offering extraordinary classes & workshops for empowering stronger and more confident individuals through the wisdom and guidance of the horse.