By Gay Liddington
Siobhan Hamson loves the wild and instinctive nature of horses. Her experiences and skills have developed a keenly intuitive connection to her horses and the life lessons they provide. She shares her story with Angela Reedman-Polinski, in living the life of an equine assisted personal development instructor.
by Angela Reedman-Polinski
Equine Assisted Personal Development (EAPD) is not a term everyone is familiar with and Siobhan explains exactly how it works for the horse and the participant.
“Horses are not just commodities, they are much more than just an animal to train, ride and control. If we learn to listen to them, we can develop our emotional growth.”
People visit Siobhan and her horses for many challenges from depression, anxiety and confidence issues to learning new leadership skills.
“My horses reflect the challenges a person is dealing with and this insight provides tools to help them.”
Hearing how Siobhan became involved in this industry was fascinating. Far from the lush paddocks of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, she was born and raised in busy Hong Kong by her Australian family.
“I didn’t like the noise and bright city lights, I wanted a peaceful space and I dreamed of horses regularly as a child.”
In the local Hong Kong markets, she found it difficult to see animals being treated as currency.
“I bought animals there to save and spent many weekends rescuing and advocating for animals, trying to teach the birds with clipped wings to fly.”
She started riding her cousin’s horse in NSW on a family holiday and it sparked her interest.
“After that, mum found a riding school when we returned to Hong Kong and I felt like I had finally found what I needed.”
Her next big life change was to move to an English, Catholic boarding school with horses in their student training program. Bedgebury in Kent, was a 200-year-old historical school building and there was a sharp culture shock with the British country lifestyle.
“I persisted through dyslexia, dreary cafeteria food and holidays spent alone. I focused on completing my training to be a fully qualified British Horses Society Assistant Instructor after two years studying.”
There was one reprieve. She purchased a cheeky, fun and adventurous Shire X Thoroughbred horse named Alister.
“Alister was my constant companion. We would escape together to ride the forests whenever I had the chance.”
Siobhan beat the critics and achieved acceptance into the prestigious Hartbury, an agricultural college in Cheltenham, England. For four years, she studied a Higher National Diploma in Equine Science and trained up to Level 2 in her original diploma.
“My confidence rose, and I made good friends. I spent a few years in the UK working for a steeplechase trainer, riding and starting his horses. I taught at the local riding schools and competed Alister in Three Day Eventing.”
After a time exploring Scotland, she felt the yearn for Australia. Giving Alister away to a friend was difficult but necessary.
“It was hard, we had such a strong connection. I visited him years later and as I called his name in the paddock, he came running.”
Back in Australia, she worked in NSW, prepping the yearlings for the auction process to become race horses.
“The company broke in race horses for Gai Waterhouse so step by step the young horses were taught to be handled and respond to instructions.”
Feeling despondent about the horse training industry, she searched to find a more compatible way to train horses.
“I began to hear about alternative traditional horsemanship training options and natural horsemanship clinics for skittish horses.”
Siobhan brought two horses up with her when she made the move to the area, Allaire and her son Oscar, and then she studied a course at the Australian Institution of Equine Psychotherapy.
“I began teaching riding at Witta and spent time resting, reflecting and researching. I enjoyed teaching a pony and jumping club and became part of a regular riding group.
“In Maleny, I enjoyed teaching riding both privately and at a local pony club. I also started a jump club and the social club, Desperate Horse Wives, where we ride and drink coffee.
“I had noticed that I had started feeling uncomfortable around horses and feelings of anxiety, fear and anger were rising up. I delved into Gestalt-based therapy and began examining my old beliefs and patterns.”
This self-examination and reflection led to a self-forgiveness and feeling more present and aware each day.
“It felt like I was walking a new path, noticing my thoughts and responding rather than reacting.”
Fast forward through the years and Siobhan carries her vast skills, experience and journey in to the services she offers today.
Siobhan gracefully shared her horses with me on the day we met, in my own personal experience of her business service, Horse Wisdom For Life.
As a person who loves horses across a fence rather than close up, this was a physical and emotional challenge for me. The largest horse in the paddock, Alfie, strode up and firmly planted himself up close with his back towards me.
Fear ran through me and I listened as Siobhan gently spoke and encouraged me to face my fears. By the end of the session, I stood calmly inside the paddock patting Alfie and stroking his majestic mane.
I’ll leave the last words to Siobhan as a true supporter, advocate and protector of these amazing animals.
“Horses teach us to check in with ourselves and read our own body language. They communicate with us to re-connect us with our authentic selves, if we can only just stand still and listen.”
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