Learn to take the lead with equine assisted learning

 In Business, News

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it stand on a glove. Or can you? With some out-of-the-box thinking, communication and teamwork, one may be surprised what can be accomplished. 

Meeting an objective – such as coaxing a horse to do something it has absolutely no intention of doing – is seemingly the goal of exercises at Gateway Farms Equine Assisted Learning Centre in Mulmur. But the real goal is to learn better communication and leadership skills by reading body language and working with others. 

Gateway Farms, which held its grand opening Sept. 23, offers experiential learning using horses. It is a partnership between aunt-niece duo Tess MacLean and Yvette Cadieux (pictured from left, with Blanche). 

Horses are herd animals, they explain, and have a natural hierarchy with an alpha male and alpha mare at the top. They are extremely communicative and don’t mind taking direction from a strong leader – that’s where the workshop participant has a chance to take the lead, literally.

Workshops are open to everyone and people don’t have to have any experience with horses. And no, there is no horseback riding involved. 

“It’s fun for people who don’t know a lot about horses,” said MacLean. “They just want to be near the animals.” 

The horses are led through a variety of obstacles with set objectives. Activities can be done solo or with a partner but really they are also completed in partnership with the horse. Whether for corporate teambuilding, date night or girls night out, the workshops aim to improve personal development, self exploration, teamwork and leadership. Then there are the more subtle lessons that can be learned from a horse, about body language and overcoming fear, said Cadieux.

Both MacLean and Cadieux have a lot of experience with horses. 

MacLean said she was looking to get involved with something to help people unlock their potential and also involved horses. When she found an opportunity to rent a barn on the 4th Line of Mulmur, she took it. She recruited her niece because they are like-minded and had both experienced major loss in the past decade, which prompted them to do some soul searching of their own.

“Sometimes you have to look inside yourself,” said MacLean. “Sometimes we just float through life and I wanted to create something meaningful.”

Cadieux is a social worker who used to work with abused women and children. Both she and MacLean are certified equine assisted learning facilitators and there are plans to move into equine assisted grief counselling and other more therapeutic programming.

Gateway Farms is home to eight horses and two ponies, including boarders. Three horses, all retired race and show horses are fully immersed in the equine assisted learning program (along with the two ponies, which are available for children’s workshops). Although the horses are retired, they still enjoy having tasks and working with people, said MacLean.

“They are great teachers. They are great with people. They really teach people how to think outside the box. There are so many ah-ha moments,” said MacLean.

Workshops can be one day or over multiple weeks and summer camps are also offered. 

Upcoming workshops and fees are posted at www.gatewayfarmseal.com. For more information call 519-216-4021.

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