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How I help people heal with horses

Natasha Albeer, 40, is the founder of Natural With Horse UK and is based in East Sussex.

I am the youngest of five sisters. I was born in inner-city Bristol and I didn’t have much access to horses.

There was a cemetery nearby with a patch of grass. It was then at age three that I developed this magical connection with horses. To me, they represented freedom, strength and sensitivity. I had a single mum growing up. She came from a very traditional Indian background. She had an arranged marriage and divorced by the time I was three. We couldn’t afford riding lessons.

Finding a way

Despite, my mum not having a car, in my early teens, we got ourselves to The Black Mountains in Wales each summer. It was there that I learnt to ride at a Pony Trekking Centre.

We would ride into the mountains across the beautiful purple heather, while the Welsh feral ponies often joined our ponies and followed our trail. I learnt how horses and ponies were able to live and flourish in nature and also how they were able to keep their selves well with minimal human intervention.

Finding my feet

I left home at 15, moved to London to do my A Levels and then put myself through university to read English and Philosophy. I was the first person in my family history to get a degree.

On graduation, I moved to London and studied postgraduate Law. I had always been drawn to horses and they were a motivation point to get to in my life. I thought by working in Law, that I would be able to afford a life with horses. However, I soon learned that working in the legal profession was not for me and I embarked on a career in fashion and beauty journalism. I wrote for some prestigious magazines and enjoyed the creativity and variety of meeting people and flying around the world.

My dream was to find ways of connecting with horses in lots of different way, beyond what a traditional riding school could provide.

Natural horsemanship

To me, horses offer much more than riding. I see them a sentient beings rather than a commodity. I view my horses as family. I have a small mixed herd of five horses and ponies. My focus is creating and nurturing a partnership based on trust and understanding first. I practice Natural Horsemanship.

If I do ride the horses, it will be with a bitless bridle, a treeless saddle and with aids from my body, such a breathing, my seat and my body language, rather than the use of spurs, whips and other conventional riding aids.

When I am with the horses, connection stands out as the most important thing. I want to have a solid relationship with the horses to ensure the safety of both of us if we decide to ride.

Creating inclusive culture

As a woman of colour, breaking into the equestrian world has been exceptionally isolating at times. More inclusivity is developing within equestrian communities now, but when I was growing up the vibe and separatism was very intimidating.

The equestrian world has history of being elite. It is costly to keep horses and as such it has been a struggle financially to get into. Growing up, I had never seen a person of colour with horses. In the 90s, I saw a showjumper with dread locks and I thought, Wow! However, horsey books, magazines and TV were still dominated by the white middle classes. It was hard to identify with, find inspiration or a mentor that I could relate to.

A career with horses

In my late twenties, I moved out of London to finally start a career with horses and I wanted to raise a family away from the city.

I started off with having rescue horses and I kept the cost down by having them live out all year around. This was in contrast to keeping them in stables or at a conventional livery yard. I then had the freedom, choice and space as to how I interacted with them.

I rented conservation land which was full of native herbs and trees for shelter. The land even had a river running through it. It was hard work in some ways, but I had the privilege to be in a space that was completely my own away from criticism and judgement of others, both in the way that I kept my horses and away from people’s prejudice.

Thankfully, things are changing now and I feel that there is a real shift. Especially, with the help of social media connecting and inspiring others around the world.

You can join online communities to motivate and encourage each other.

Starting a business

I founded Natural With Horses in 2000 with an aim to offer people life inspiring interactions with horses beyond the realms of riding.

We welcome people from all walks of life to experience the profound teachings of horses in a natural environment. Horses have enormous hearts and guts.

They can utilise so much information from their bodies to make better judgement and decisions, rather than relying on their logic. We learn from horses and use many of their techniques as a model to further our own social and emotional intelligence. For instance, their approach to consensual leadership, their way of processing emotion or how to set healthy boundaries and live a life of authenticity.

Our approach

I offer three different approaches to learning through horse wisdom.

Equine Facilitated Learning can help you to embrace your authentic self. It may help you to understand the root of your fears, identify conditioned patterns and emotional blocks that could be limiting your life. We learn how to effectively process emotions in the body and do a mix of exercises in the teaching room before we go out to the paddocks or menage to learn with the horses. We may for instance do, leadership work, learn how to embody a goal, learn how to have an effective relationship, find our true heart’s desire in situations.

We learn many other skills and tools that can then be taken forward and used in everyday life situations, beyond the horses.

Holistic Horsemanship is an approach to horse communication, where we can learn how to interact with horses by using our body. For instance, how to ask a horse to start and stop, walk, trot and turn using direction, breathing and our body language. All interactions are at liberty, which means loose and at the horse’s own free will.

When a horse chooses to interact and partner with you, it is so deeply honouring and empowering to your relationship with them.

Reiki and Shamanism Horses have an immense sensory awareness. They can pick up on situations and they can understand situations and feelings beyond the remit and limits of language and words. I have experienced lots of incredible moments with the horses. They are natural empaths and as such, horses are very responsive to Reiki, which is a form of energy healing. They will often relax into a sleepy state or stand still while the healing is taking place. Then walk away, stretch and release after their session has finished.

We also hold Shamanic courses which involve drumming, meditating, sacred ceremony using herbs, creating mandalas and exploring vibrational and crystal energy healing. We gather around the fire pit in the meadow with the heard and connect, typically the way many of our ancestors did.

My advice

Get to know horses first and become friends. When a horse chooses to carry you, it is such a privilege.

Keep your dreams close. Push to create your own luck. Don’t worry about what other people think of you. You are stronger than you think. Be proud of your roots.

What I offer

It is a safe, held place to explore personal development with horses.

Learning with horses takes place outdoors with a backdrop to the panoramic views of The South Downs. It’s a tranquil and uninterrupted space.

I practice natural horse keeping which involves a more holistic approach to horse care. Our horses live out all year around, rather than being in a stable. They are barefoot, rather than wearing metal shoes. I feel that when horses are free to be themselves, to live in a herd environment and to experience all the seasons, they have a more enriched life and are therefore able to be more authentic in their interactions with participants.

My aim is to make horses accessible to women from all walks of life. To share with them the rich teachings of how we can live life with more emotional agility and with authenticity.

I have broken a lot of boundaries in the equestrian field as the first woman of colour to be an Eponaquest Instructor in the modality of UK Equine Facilitated Learning. I always seek to question the way that I work and the way I interact with horses to improve for the future and push for the highest standards. I am always learning and I will always be a student of the horse.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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