'They have a lot to give,' N.S. woman says of four-legged teachers
ARDOISE, N.S. -- Horses know how to read body language and they make excellent teachers if you know how to read theirs.
A family ranch in Nova Scotia specializes in equine assisted learning -- where the horse is the teacher.
You don't have to be a horse person to see the incredible bond Kristy Falconer has with Buddy as the Percheron-Quarter Horse cross responds to her non-verbal commands.
Falconer has found comfort in horses since she was a little girl.
"Childhood was a little bit tough at times, and I was staying in a place that wasn't always safe," Falconer said. "So, when I felt that I needed safety, I would go to the horse barn."
The family decided to move to Ardoise, N.S., from Vancouver Island two years ago while she was recovering from a critical illness.
"So we shipped our horses back and I bought this place sight unseen from a hospital bed," said Falconer.
And Serenity Acres was born.
"We have autism in our family, PTSD in our family," Falconer said. "We had a wide range of challenges we were going through while I went through my illness and our horses brought us through it."
Falconer and her family have experienced the healing power of horses first-hand and part of the reason to start the equine-assisted learning program was to share that with others.
In equine-assisted learning (EAL), people are the pupils and the horse is the teacher.
"They are a prey animal so they are incredibly intuitive with everyone in their space," said Falconer, who is a certified EAL facilitator. She says the horses constantly watch our body language.
Students work in small teams of two or three, manoeuvering through a series of obstacles that demand patience, team work and communication skills.
"You learn respect with the horses and when you get into someone's personal bubble too much," said Hannah Greeno. "So you learn that with the horses and you can learn that in your everyday life too."
Says Falconer: "I see children come through the door cursing and swearing and angry and disconnected and I see them find the connection that I found when I was young."
The EAL program is suited to adults too.
"We've worked with people that are going through grief and loss and find healing with the horses," Falconer said.
Jessica Cahill is a professional farrier who works with horses every day, but she still gets something new out of this experience.
"Absolutely! Not only working with your horse but working with your teammate too," Cahill said.
Falconer's husband, Richard Rord, is retired from a military career. He was never a horse person until he met her.
"Every day, I learn something," Ford says.
Falconer says horses are amazing teachers.
"They have a lot to give and we're just trying to help guide people with the horses to their goals," she said.