ISSUE 70
SEP 2021

PARAS WIN HEARTS
AT TOKYO
KEVIN McNAB & DON
STRIKE SILVER
OLYMPIC BLOODLINES
WITH HEATH RYAN

PLUS: LUCINDA GREEN, AMY GRAHAM, EMMA WEINERT O’ROURKE, DIAMOND B’S SECRETS, THOROUGHBRED REHAB, WALERS TO THE RESCUE, SET GOALS WITH KERRY MACK, THE BLACK STALLION, BUILDING AN ARENA, FEEDING & FOALING

AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
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ISSUE 70

CONTENTS

SEP 2021
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A few Words

FROM THE CHAIRMAN

ROBERT MCKAY

Opinion

BREEDING FOR BRISBANE: WHAT TOKYO TAUGHT US

RYAN'S RAVE BY HEATH RYAN

Para Equestrian

PARA EQUESTRIAN FAB FOUR WIN HEARTS AT TOKYO

BY ADELE SEVERS

Dressage

EMMA BRINGS IT ALL BACK HOME

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Off the Track

A THOROUGH BELIEF IN THOROUGHBREDS

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Showjumping

AUSSIE AMY GRAHAM’S JUMPING LIFE IN EUROPE

BY BERNARD BALE

Training

SO YOU WANT TO GO TO THE GAMES?

BY DR KERRY MACK

Health

HOLD YOUR HORSES: FEEDING FOR COOLNESS

BY ELLIE JOLLEY

Lifestyle

THE MAGIC OF THE BLACK STALLION

BY SUZY JARRATT

Property

DESIGN BY VISION

BY ADELE SEVERS

Eventing

KEVIN McNAB’S SILVER DEBUT

BY ELLI BIRCH

Lifestyle

THE HORSE AS THE HEALER

BY ELLIE JOLLEY

Showjumping

HOW DIAMOND B PRODUCES ITS GEMS

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Health

SEPSIS IN FOALS

BY DR MAXINE BRAIN

Eventing

LUCINDA GREEN’S JOINT VENTURE

BY ADELE SEVERS
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For many equestrians, spending time with their horses provides an escape from reality, a safe space to be themselves, and even a form of physical, emotional, and mental therapy. This sense of deep connection and companionship has drawn people to horses for thousands of years.

American horse trainer Buck Brannaman once said, “The horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see. Sometimes you will.” This is especially true when it comes to the practice of equine therapy, which helps people make sense of the world around them through the eyes of a horse.

From a young age, Elizabeth Hodges was incredibly shy and wouldn’t have said boo to a goose. Over the years, Elizabeth discovered that horses helped her come out of her shell, and now she is giving young children the opportunity to follow in her steps through equine therapy.

When she was around five years old, Elizabeth recalls her family moved away from the busy metropolitan area of West Ryde to the country. “I was able to start riding at that age, and I pretty much haven’t gotten off a horse since then,” says Elizabeth. “We started out with the usual Pony Club, dressage and eventing. But when I was going into high school, we moved to Tasmania from Sydney, and it gave us the opportunity to then start working with the high country cattlemen.

“Through the week, we’d focused on mainly dressage and jumping, and on the weekends we’d go into the high country with the cattlemen and muster the cows and go on long treks,” continues Elizabeth. “I think when I was about 14, we rode across Tasmania on a seven-day ride and it really helped cement my love for being around horses and realising that horses were such an opener for me, as I was very, very shy, especially at school. My mum started recognising that when I was on a horse, I was able to open up and talk, and that happened on the first cattlemen’s ride. I think I was in grade six or seven on a little grey pony with hundreds of riders with us, and all of a sudden I’m off chatting away and starting conversations. From a young age I really recognised how horses have benefited and helped me.”

“I love working with people
with confidence issues.”

PASSION FOR WALERS

As she became an adult, Elizabeth’s enthusiasm for horses continued to grow. “I became very passionate about being involved in the Waler breed from a very young age through my family background,” she says. “That opened up lots of different possibilities and opportunities. Trying to get the development of the breed and then working to get the recognition for the horses, in a way pushed me into the media spotlight doing interviews for TV and radio and finding projects to save the horses. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever do anything like that. But a friend said ‘just imagine your horse is standing with you as you’re speaking’. And it’s allowed me to do things in my life that I never thought were possible because public speaking would just terrify me. But now I can perform in front of crowds when we put on shows and the confidence that I feel when I’m with my horses is immense.”

Now the owner of Redgum Walers, a stud located near Brisbane, Elizabeth is preserving the famous Australian breed and began therapy work as a qualified facilitator of the Equine Facilitated Learning method seven years ago. “With the Walers, I wanted to share them with people,” explains Elizabeth. “At the time I started with the therapy, I was breeding quite a few horses and I wanted a way to basically share them with other people. I wanted to share the opportunities with horses that I had found as a kid and as an adult. My horses have helped me through the hardest times in my life. And I dare say if I didn’t have them, I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today and I’d maybe be a shell of a person. I was approached by some individuals working in Child Safety who were looking for a stud in the area that could work with people. I always admired people who do that sort of work and I agreed to train as an Australian Equine Facilitated Learning coordinator.

“I was lucky enough to work with a number of veterans early on,” says Elizabeth, “but I found myself more suited to working with children including those in the foster system who have experienced significant trauma. That’s what my work revolves around now. Although I started with the intention of really wanting to give back to the veterans and to help, the reality of that is I’m not a veteran. I can sympathise, but I don’t know what they’ve gone through. It’s such a strong culture and I think anyone in the military will tell you that unless you’ve been there and unless you have built the brotherhood or sisterhood and know what that involves, you really can’t understand what they’re going through.

“Part of the problem with PTSD is coming home and not having that same system of support in place. So, although I have worked with veterans, and I’ve made really fantastic and long-lasting friendships out of that, it wasn’t actually something that I was particularly suited to alone because I hadn’t experienced that. Of course, I love to share my Walers with them and they have that common history but, for me with equine therapy, you’ve got to be true to yourself and you can’t pretend to be anything you’re not. Even though you might start out with the best of intentions of working with a particular group of people, what it comes down to is who you are. To give your best and be genuine, you have to find out who you are best able to help and work with, and unfortunately, that didn’t end up being veterans for me.”

WORKING WITH CHILDREN

Since discovering that working with children was her strength, Elizabeth has welcomed dozens of young clients through her door over the years. “I love working with people with confidence issues and trying to help them believe in themselves and their own abilities and what they are capable of, because it’s so much more than what they ever imagined. On a day-to-day basis, I usually finish my day job in the office and go home and I have a client, usually a school-aged child, waiting for me when I get home. And then we usually have an hour session with the horses.”

“It is a very private interaction,” explains Elizabeth. “There are a lot of different types of modalities with regards to therapy interaction with horses. And what I practise is one called Equine Facilitated Learning, and basically that comes down to providing a safe environment for the horse and for the individual to encourage development and learning.

“From an introductory point of view, we will often start with no real history of the individual. Part of the thinking behind that is the horse doesn’t get a brief of who they’re about to meet. If I know everything about them, it gives me a preconceived idea of who they are. Sometimes it’s necessary for safety reasons; obviously you need to know anything that might impact the session. But I do like to take an individual as they are in that moment because I will often have someone who will be fantastic or they’ll talk or they’ll interact in a way that their carer may not have experienced before because the animals have just opened them up. The horses just seem to provide this bridge to enable that communication.”

Not only does Elizabeth have horses on her stud, but she also has other animals such as dogs and cattle that the clients can interact with as well. “I try to always make sure the session is between them and the animal, and I try not to get in the way. Sometimes when they initially come, they’ll be hiding behind their carer and not interacting at all. So, I spend time creating opportunities for them to build the confidence to interact, such as starting with grooming, or feeding, but it usually ends with them working with the horse through groundwork, and possibly even riding as well.

“Keeping the environment predictable for them really helps them to relax as they know what to expect and can stay in their comfort zone. Over time, we can slowly start to expand that comfort zone, but it’s so important to let that individual know that they are in a safe space. And it’s important that we go at a pace they are comfortable with, and they can control, because they don’t often have control over any other part of their life. So, when they come, I allow them to help define how that session is going to go for them. And for those who are up to riding, that also helps with their core strength and fine motor development skills, which has loads of benefits as well. But using groundwork really helps them with getting an idea of their self-regulation and how they interact with others.

PERSONAL BOUNDARIES 

“A number of my clients have experienced severe trauma including at the hands of other people,” says Elizabeth. “So one of the things that we do when working with the horses is identifying personal boundaries and maintaining those personal boundaries — because there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive, but some of these individuals don’t know how to do that. The only time they’ve really seen someone standing up for themselves is potentially in an aggressive manner. So I try to create an environment that helps individuals identify with what they’re comfortable with, what their boundaries are, and not only know that that is okay but to stand up for that and reinforce. And we try to do that with the horses by becoming aware of their body language and how they can communicate that to the horse.

“Some horses can be overbearing or a bit pushy, so I show them how to control the horse in a firm but gentle way so he’s not stepping all over them. It’s a way of saying ‘these are my boundaries, I enjoy your company, but I’d like you to stand here’. So it’s all about fine-tuning those skills and helping the individual to have a clarity of thought about what they would like to achieve and that you are worthy of a response, which is about respecting your needs while taking into account the horse’s needs too.

“For some of my clients, I’ve seen them overcome fear of the unknown and fear of people in general,” explains Elizabeth. “I’ve been able to help a number of young children overcome that fear before going into the school environment where they will be interacting with female and male teachers. It really is a wonderful way to help that development of young people; I can see them coming out of their shells and starting to interact with the world around them.” EQ

Elizabeth and Tony Hodges featured in the July issue of Equestrian Life in a special feature about medieval jousting. You can read the article here.

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