I was invited to join a team of EFL/P practitioners and equine specialists this month to deliver the Equine Therapy part of charity Key4Life’s pre-release programme for young offenders at HMP/YOI Portland. Livvy Adams from Paintedhorse headed the Equine Team and organised a two day programme suitable for the young men at the prison. We headed in with four amazing horses from Portland. Amazing because they never failed to get their messages across to the young men, whether they acted out behaviourally to reflect the energies presented in the group or gently stood close to the men. Some men had not seen a horse up close and personal and calmed their anxiety levels.
Equine behaviour can of course be explained based on what we know. I have a degree in Animal Science and the behaviour unit was fascinating. In fact it hooked me into the world of animal behaviour and welfare. In recent years however, I have had this knowledge challenged by something far more connected, on a deeper level altogether, wisdom. Animal wisdom always leaves me a little open mouthed and shaking my head in slight disbelief as I realise how our animal kingdom has remained connected whilst we humans have isolated and disconnected ourselves. Horses tap into the very energy we carry with us, they let us know what it is if we don’t know; they respond to us with immediacy, they are incredible Gestalt therapists and can detect incongruence a mile off.
Some of the heart felt comments made by these young men have sat with the equine team and brought tears to eyes when recalling them. You see it can be easy for us horsey people to forget what it is to experience a horse for the first time, that we receive unconditional positive regard from one of our long standing animal allies on a daily basis. We know already that horses don’t care about what has been done in the past, they only respond to who has turned up today. Imagine experiencing that for the first time? Another living being who is not judging you, but being with you in the moment.
After the programme the young men wrote messages about hopes for the future on ribbons which were tied into the manes of the horse that connected to them the most. The horses then carried them out of prison and we hung them in a special tree in the orchard at Glastonbury. By the spring the messages were washed clean by the elements, as if their wishes had been granted.
The Tree in the Orchard
Tied in its branches
are ribbons of dreams,
from men with dark futures, or so it seems.
The tree in the orchard
is no ordinary tree,
with roots firmly planted in Glastonbury.
With the mystery of Avalon
below and above,
the tree gives its dreamers unconditional love.
Wishes come true
and magic can happen
when we engage with our light and break our old patterns.
From a small seed
this tree grew strong, grew wiser,
it knew the shit it went through was life’s fertiliser.
Author: Georgie McBurney
[published in Enchanted Beings by Jenny Chapman]