This work is not only taught individually. Maggie and Hazel run afternoon workshops together, and again I was lucky enough to participate in their ‘Women and Horses’ session. The idea of this workshop is all about connection. Maggie talks of her Gestalt training—where contact leads to connection, connection leads to relationship and relationship leads to intimacy—and how this is mirrored in the arena with the horses. Maggie believes that any woman (or person, for that matter) can feel empowered by working with horses. Through a series of different experiences in the arena with the horses, a trust is formed and a relationship begins to develop between the horses and women. Maggie often refers to Peggy Cummings, who also acknowledges the benefits of working with horses -
‘Our major way of communicating is with
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things... The wisdom of horses words & images Anna Foletta Anna is a passionate mother, dancer, friend and lover but a terrible housekeeper. This creates many discussions with her long suffering, bread winning husband. But she loves him and her two beautiful kids passionately and whole heartedly and that makes up for all her flaws... She is also one of the creators of this amazing magazine.
‘The horse is a mirror of the self’ Peggy Cummings I have to admit that I fall into the category of people who really enjoy and relish workshops, alternative therapy—pretty much anything that allows me to really sink into the inner workings of me—so when I met Maggie Broom, I was very excited. I was drawn to her dynamic energy immediately and was instantly fascinated by the work she does. I was thrilled when she offered the opportunity to have a session with her. Maggie runs Grey Horse Growth and Learning from her 20 acre property in Panton Hill, outside of Melbourne. Through her program, Maggie provides both therapeutic and personal growth experiences for people who want to find out more about themselves and the way they respond to others around them. The uniqueness of Maggie’s work lies in the medium which she uses—horses. Being in the arena with the horses and observing them acts as a metaphor for real life, while the horse mirrors the emotional state of the client in a way that cannot be achieved with inanimate materials. Maggie trained in Australia with EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) and is also a qualified counsellor. After completing her PHD in Education (Counselling), she had an epiphany while looking into Autism and Aspergers syndrome. She had been visiting a psychologist in rural Victoria who had talked about EAP (Equine Assisted Psychotherapy) but couldn’t share much information about it, so she researched it herself and found EAGALA. This was the turning point to
words, but communication is more than just speaking. It also involves validating and understanding the other and feeling validated ourselves. This is what a horse asks of and
create a space for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning.
offers us: validation and understanding. A
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is not about learning to ride a horse. Maggie doesn’t teach people to ride, she helps people to learn how to create and maintain relationships with the horses, and in turn with the people around them. By working with the horses, people are able to encounter their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s not about giving answers, but instead asking people to find their own answers. EAGALA work is facilitated in a team (Maggie works with Hazel Fox), the session is all unmounted and no horse handling skills are taught. The emphasis is predominantly on inviting people to explore the meaning of the interaction to develop insight.
feeling of being heard and understood by the
While I had an idea of what Maggie did, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d spent time with horses as a teenager, but always in a trail ride kind of way—so was excited and hesitant to be spending some time with them in a more intimate setting. Maggie has five horses, each with a very different personality. One of the aspects of this work is that often you don’t choose the horse you work with. The horses choose you. This is part of EAP—you experience the horse on the horse’s terms. This in itself brings up its own process! What if a horse didn’t choose me at all? Needless to say, my session in the arena was an incredible experience. There were moments of disbelief, grief and amazement where I was astounded by how profound the insights were that I gained through working directly with the horses. Maggie’s gentle guidance was un-assuming yet perfect in its direction. It was truly a gift to experience this.
horse paves the way for a woman to expand her relationships with people.’ Hazel and Maggie also run other workshops, including one for younger people to explore new ways to find friendship and develop strengths in communication, awareness and resilience. Another component of Maggie’s work is Equine Facilitated
Learning (EFL). EFL uses horses to help people with social, emotional or behavioural difficulties—but is quite different to EAP in the way it is presented. EFL uses the Levinson Model–where there is usually only one facilitator and horse handling skills are taught. By spending time with the horses, groundwork skills are learnt and the client experiences mastery and the experience is in the here and now. The main aim of EFL is to have clients feel good about themselves and the world around them, with the emphasis being on positive feedback, rather than critique. I have been lucky enough to witness EFL in the arena too—my five year old daughter has been attending sessions with Maggie for a couple of months now and it has been a beautiful process to watch. She, like many other young girls, is completely besotted with horses, so for her birthday, we thought we’d give her the experience of spending some time with them! I didn’t want her to just be led around on a sad, tired horse at a fete, so immediately thought of Maggie. The gentleness and care with which Maggie facilitates these sessions is amazing—she, not unlike the horses, senses emotions and fears and creates a space for authentic connection to the horses to occur. I have witnessed my daughter move confidently on and around a horse twice her height and seen pure joy in her ability to interact with the horses—moments where there could be no-one else in the world but her and the horse. It is no surprise to me that this kind of interaction with horses is so profound with children/people with additional needs too—there is a connection that is unlike the one we share with other people. There is no doubt in my mind that the work Maggie does with her horses is extraordinary. I’ve witnessed it first hand for myself, in groups and have watched my daughter blossom in her confidence. What Maggie offers is access to gentle, yet profound insights into our inner workings as people— an ability to develop a deeper understanding of the way we operate in the world. And perhaps in these days of increasing disconnect, what better way to reconnect with the earth but through the wisdom of horses.
‘Show me your horse, and I will tell you what you are’ Old English saying Maggie holds workshops at her property regularly and is available for private sessions. More information can be found at www. greyhorselearning.weebly.com. Peggy Cummings, 2005, The Horse is a Mirror to the Self’, in Ruth Strother & Jarelle S Stein (Eds) Of Women and Horses; More Expressions of the Magical Bond Irvine, CA Franklin Levinson www.wayofthehorse.org EAGALA www.eagala.org