Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A little dose of (horse) sense!

It was with much trepidation that I drove out to visit Gary Millar and his farm yesterday to discuss his company and passion Equus Alive.

Equus Alive is a company that has developed a series of personal development experiences built around working with horses, in a picturesque setting just a few minutes from Elk Island National Park, Alberta. Yet, the stunning scenery provided only a small amount of distraction from my nervousness!

Let me explain. I am not a horse person! In my opinion, they are too high and have too many legs!

The two attempts I had at horse riding (aged 13 and then again at 34) were both tainted with fear, frustration and a feeling of being out of control.

So, when I met with Gary yesterday and he took me to the barn where two large horses enthusiastically greeted us, I had to admit my fear and blurted “Okay ... so I am not a horse person. They make me nervous.”

Okay. Fear admitted. All is good. Gary can show me around and then I can get out of here! Phew!

Hmm... Seemed like Gary had a different idea!

He introduced me to Sensor, a good looking grey Arabian gelding who initially seemed quite keen to check me out. As Gary continued to explain about Equus Alive and about ‘horse sense’ I found my attention was distracted a couple of times by the horse next to Sensor; Sox. This animal, a chestnut Arabian gelding, was not just large, he was gigantic! Sox proceeded to stick out his neck, over Gary’s shoulder and turn his head from side to side, grinning at me almost crazily.

I backed up a little. Sox seemed to have the amazing ability to stretch his neck out even further and continued to turn his head from one side to the other. “He’s the comedian of the bunch!” said Gary, noticing my attention. Huh.... and I thought he was trying to eat me!

As Gary explained further, I couldn’t help be fascinated by the concept of Equus Alive. “Horses never lie.” Gary explained. “They respond honestly to the way you interact with them. You cannot BS a horse.”

Gary led Sensor and I to the ‘arena’ and then proceeded to explain more about the programs that he offers.

Sensor and Gary Millar
 From a half day up to 5 day advanced workshops, Gary and his team focus on communication with the horses in a safe, secure environment.

Working with a horse in this way allows people to relax the defences that they operate with on a daily basis. Growing in confidence and trust with each other enables the individual to gain self-esteem and confidence and create a bond of trust between horse and human.

This was somewhat hard to believe when Gary handed the rope to me and I was instructed to start walking with Sensor and to trust that he would do what he was asked. Thoughts of this 1000lb animal eating or crushing me were running rampant through my head. “Breathe!” reminded Gary.

“Okay, I can do this.” I told myself. I held my head high, breathed and walked alongside Sensor, trying to match his pace and trust in the process.

Next I had to have Sensor run alongside me, an altogether daunting experience, yet as he ran, obediently, I felt a growing sense of exhilaration.

When we reach a small jump in the arena, I hesitated and panicked a little, but Gary was right there beside us, soothing both Sensor and I.

From my perspective, Sensor initially was curious about me and wanted to know more, yet his behaviour seemed to change as he reacted to my demeanour. He became gentle, thoughtful and almost cajoling as he waited patiently alongside us. He seemed to be expressing that he was okay and that I could trust him. He wanted me to like him, in the same way that I wanted him to like me.

Sensor and the brave author

This was just a taste of the programs that Gary offers and the course continues and includes interacting with the horses without a harness, working with other horses to gain further relationships and grooming the horses in their stalls.

When we took Sensor back to the barn, I had graduated from standing back against the opposite wall to being able to stroke, pat and feed him treats and then even give a treat to Sox, the gigantic, crazy neighbour!

When I left the farm, I felt intrigued by my own emotions and reactions. After all, I had opened up and shown my vulnerability to a 1000lb animal; he didn’t eat me and he didn’t berate me for my fear! I was still a little nervous by the end of the two hours, but my captivation in the process and my newly gained trust in Gary and his concept will take me back for more!

Urban Insight has travel packages available that include the Equus Alive programs, please contact us for more information.

Gary Millar also runs school programs that help motivate kids to want to read. These programs teach children of all ages to read to horses and to be able to communicate with them. For more information go to

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