As featured in Equine Leadership magazine 2019 March edition. By: Emma Rourke
For as long as she could remember it had been there. The image of the small girl pointing out the grey horse over the fence to her father, and the need to be close to it, as he scratched his head bemused.
At school she daydreamed and drew horses all over her maths book and in English language they galloped their way over the crisp white pages. In art they found their way into whatever topic was there. In the playground, many spirited ponies pranced their way around the netball court. Childhood dreams of horses that never faded over time.
Breathing in the strong, comforting smell of horse. Steady breaths, soothing jangled nerves. Soft velvety muzzle exploring her hair, as she crouched in a ball of misery. She slowly began to uncurl, the rhythmic sound of hay being munched, the solid black pony, allowing her to “just be!” No need to think or try and understand the chaotic overthinking in her exhausted brain. As she picked up a brush and began to groom the pony steadily, the world didn’t seem quite so bad and she began to feel more hopeful. She could enjoy this time now, luxuriating in sensory feelings of safety and comfort.
She knew they had been there when she was depressed, the legacy of growing up with alcoholism. They helped her to overcome anxious fears and helped her to be brave. They taught her that she could be herself, and to silence the inner critic giving her hell on earth. No judgement, she was ok, not perfect, but ok.
As she grew up special horses came into her life to teach her different lessons
The stunning palomino with the flaxen mane and tail, every little girl’s dream pony, taught her to trust her gut feelings. Hyper-vigilant, her stomach would contract moments before he would spook at the imaginary monster in the hedge. Embodied connection, senses at one with each other.
The chestnut mare taught her to be patient. As a child of the 80’s, she was reminded of the indomitable Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher. “This lady was not for turning!” She learned to discuss things. Boundaries were staked out.
The bay mare taught her to be brave, to turn her fear into faith, having confidence in a relationship of deep assurance.
The grey gelding taught her kindness, a re-building of confidence in mid-life and tender love and respect. He helped her to navigate the deep waters of grief and build her emotional resilience.
The grey stallion; unwavering belief and unconditional love.
They were her friends, her family, her world
As the years went by, she grew up, but the love affair never ended. It grew stronger and stronger by the day.
Horses taught her to surrender her need to control outcomes that were beyond her control, to “let go”, and gently nudged her back into the present. They taught her to play and be joyful, to be silly and not take herself too seriously. To look on the positives and not stay fixed on the negatives. They taught her, and are still teaching her, to ‘mind her own business’. That she is only responsible for her own feeling’s, attitudes and behaviours, and she doesn’t need to save the world. It will keep turning without her input.
She learned to trust the still small voice that spoke to her heart, comforting, healing and teaching her that she was unconditionally loved. Respite from the chaos of anxious overthinking, a legacy of the hypervigilance of a child fearful of angry outbursts and arguments that had become her norm.
Fast forward to 2019
I, Emma, have learned to overcome the challenges of someone who grew up in an alcoholic home and experienced the things that most individuals who have grown up in addiction-based homes are exposed to; low self-esteem, fear and anxiety, difficulty in decision making, difficulty in committing to intimacy in relationships, and other self-sabotaging behaviours.
After spending over 20 years of moving myself out of negative thinking and behaviour, I am, today, living a positive, faith filled life.
As an IFEEL confidence coach and facilitator of Human Development, Personal Development and Wellness, I wanted an opportunity for others to learn and benefit from my own real-life experiences, my passion and knowledge of horses and love of helping people to grow in confidence. With that, Hephzibah Horses Equine Assisted Personal Development was launched in Spring 2018.
There’s something profound that draws humans and horses together. Research has confirmed, the effectiveness of Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is a most effective modality. It shows that EAL not only lowers blood pressure and heart rate, alleviates stress and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can also assist people struggling with addictions and mental health disorders to develop skills for healthy living. So, here is my vision and nod to the future.
To have Equine Assisted Learning recognized as a most effective therapy of its kind for people, particularly women, who may be "stuck" in their life, partnering with the horses and the unique gifts they offer for self-reflection. To enable people to move forward from self-limiting mind-sets, to having clarity, confidence and connection: attributes that can be taken into every area of their lives.
My story has a happy ending with positive outcomes personally and within my family. Partnering with my amazing horses, has helped many people going through tough times by offering them an empathetic, non-judgmental and safe place for them to begin to heal. If you hear the call of the horses, it’s best to listen.
My favourite time of day is in the evening, when all heads are down munching hay rhythmically, the sweet smell of horses, hay and the feeling of contentment, comfort and security. It is then, in that intimate moment, I experience love mirrored through the liquid brown eyes of a horse.
The Effectiveness of Equine-Assisted Experiential Therapy: Results of an Open Clinical Trial, Klontz et al (2007) - www.keulseweg.nl/media/onderzoek4.pdf
Emma Rourke Bio
Emma is a confidence coach and founder of Hephzibah Horses. In 2017 she qualified as an IFEAL accredited Equine Facilitator of Human Development. Her career has been interesting and varied, firstly as a riding instructor and competition rider, then a model and baby ballet teacher, and has now gone full circle back to her passion, horses. Growing up with alcoholism, Emma spent many years learning how to reframe negative mind-sets and overcome self-sabotaging behaviour. Her generous husband John of 30 years and their 3 wonderful children are very supportive of her vision for people who feel broken hearted. Horses were her emotional safe place, where she could just be herself, and her heart’s wish is to help others with the horses as partners to heal, transform and feel hope again.
Emma believes that names are important, what we have been called or what we call ourselves determines our identity. Hephzibah originates from the book of Isaiah and means: new name, new identity. Emma’s hope for those who feel that life is just too hard and heavy is that they will experience help with the horses. That they will hear the still, small voice, who is love, calling them by a new name with plans to take care of them and not to abandon them, plans to give them the future they hope for.
Contact details: Emma Rourke IFEAL Safe Professional, MNCP.
Telephone: 07769-68232 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org