You’re sitting on a green backed horse in a large open field. You’re about to undertake your final test, the culmination of two days of building up trust, confidence and communication between you and your horse.
About 50 metres ahead of you, you can hear the escalating thunder of hooves as you see a group of your fellow horsemanship students urge their horses up into a canter, a line of charging horses that looks like it might belong in some epic battle scene running straight at you.
20 metres… Your horse shifts her weight nervously from one foot to the other mirroring your own apprehension. You’ve only ridden her a handful of times but never in a group this large and certainly never at this pace. Your mind is racing about everything that could go wrong, will she bolt? Will I be able to control her? What if….?
“Just breathe, talk to your horse, it helps you to breathe, helps them to calm down”
You can almost hear Andrew Froggatt say, a statement you’ve heard multiple times throughout the morning as he and his partner Sam have guided you and all the other students through a few simple yet crucial foundations for safety on horseback. It’s thanks to their guidance that you know how to do an emergency stop, you’ve practiced it all gaits this morning and know that even if your horse has an adverse reaction to the cavalry charge you should be able to handle it…. right?
10 metres… You take a deep breath, lean down and stroke your horses neck. Her ears are still firmly pointed in front of her, you know she’s taking in the sound of every footfall and trying to process why all the horses are suddenly running toward you. If this was the wild, she’d be turning tail to join them without a doubt.
Your reins are loose but you know that should you need it, all you’d have to do is reach down and bend her head around to your knee, immediately bringing her circling to a stop. “It’s okay girl, we’ve got this” you say to her softly, and although you still have your doubts, you find you actually believe the words. Her ear softly flicks back, finding your voice and you think you can feel a little bit of the mounting tension bleed out, perhaps out of her or perhaps it’s out of you.
“ You see, confidence on horseback comes from feeling like you’re in control regardless of the situation.” Andrew Explains “You don’t need anything fancy, but we give you a few simple tools, to develop the basic foundations to ensure you can feel safe if your horse ever does anything unexpected. Feeling safe on your horse is one of the most important components to build upon when developing mutual trust “
1 metre… You’re suddenly surrounded by the sound of hooves rushing around you. You tense, ready to engage your new skills if she reacts to the high energy of the horses thundering past, but only for a moment. As the horses fly past you, you’re ready for anything… except you don’t actually NEED to do anything. Your horse, although still slightly tense from being challenged in a new context, hardly even reacts to being enveloped by the charge. Her ears are still trained on you, looking to you for leadership and confidence and, thanks to Andrew and Sam, finding it. You catch one of the other students cantering past you with a broad smile from ear to ear and you can’t help but feel your own face echo the sheer joy of the moment.
This experience we witnessed first hand was by no means a one off. We watched almost every member of the clinic have their chance to brave the charge, from little kids on their trusty ponies to seasoned riders on their experienced nags, everyone that participated seemed to gain a certain level of confidence through the knowledge that they could handle far more than they originally thought. Over the last 25 odd years, Sam and Andrew at Lead The Way Horsemanship have helped thousands of people find their confidence in a similar manner.
“A lot of our clients are nervous riders who are either returning to riding after life got in the way, or perhaps are new to riding as adults. With our Horsemanship clinics, one of the things we like to focus on is how to push your comfort zone in a manner that leaves you feeling safe and in control. Whether you’re a child, an avid rider or are new to riding, we provide you the foundation to ensure that you stay safe and feel confident on horseback. Of course if you already have an established foundation we have over 20 years of experience that can help stretch your boundaries as well, focussing on communication, leadership and safety”
These transformational experiences are relevant to far more then just riders and their horses though. Over the last 20 years Andrew has worked with some of New Zealand’s biggest companies and most elite sports coaches to deliver the same transformational experiences felt by the students at his clinic, but with tangible outcomes in the corporate and sports world. Using horses as his instrument of teaching, the team at Lead the Way is able to transfer the powerful leadership and communication principles garnered over a lifetime of working with horses and applying it their individual professional lives.
” I realised that what I could share with people was not something that they were ever going to get with traditional training…horse whispering is not a mystical art form for dealing with horses, it is a method that equally applies to communicating with people. I have had people imploring me to make this information known because of the transformational impact it can have on their lives.”
– Andrew Froggatt, Lead The Way