After working for 20 years as a medical doctor in a variety of specialities including psychiatry and general practice, I came to the conclusion that many diseases have their roots in my patients’ inability to handle stress effectively. Instead of treating stress-related illnesses, I decided to look at practical ways that my patients can use to prevent stress from ruining their health. It also became clear that self-confidence plays a major role in stress-management, so I also became interested in techniques that could be used to increase my patients' self-confidence.
I studied a number of alternative therapies including hypnotherapy and NLP, all very useful and instructive but not as fulfilling as I had hoped. I had loved horses since I was a little girl, but once I started medicine, there was no more time to devote to this gentle obsession. By 2005, as I was wondering if there could possibly be a way of combining the last 20 years’ training and experience with my love for horses, I came across equine-assisted experiential learning, an extremely effective method of increasing self-confidence and reducing stress. I was hooked right from the start: the effectiveness of the treatment, the short duration and the lasting results quickly convinced me that this is the way forward.
I started practising mindfulness meditation about 5 years ago and found it to be effective as a stress management tool. Knowing the horses to be masters of mindfulness (they have to be, as prey animals they need to be fully present in each moment to avoid capture) I experimented with including horses in mindfulness meditation sessions. They soon took over, to the benefit of everyone present. I have always been a yoga-addict and while I was studying the way horses use breathing to communicate, to encourage each other to relax, I became more aware of my breathing and the effect it had on the horses. By trial and error, I learned how to use breathing as an additional communication tool with the horses. Yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) increase our ability to concentrate and to focus, making communication with the horses easier and clearer. Effective communication with the horses increases our self-confidence dramatically. For all the reasons above, and a few more besides, I now present, together with the horses, Connect with Horses retreats in the south of France.