For 30 years I struggled with Bulimia/Anorexia. Nothing much changed during that time, the symptoms simply became more pronounced and my fear grew daily.

Then 20 years ago I got a horse, not my idea…my son’s, he was 10. First we were given a pony and then to keep Gus company we got Bronwen. Gus thought I was a piece of his own faeces and treated me as such. I was bitten and kicked regularly, I became good at dodging both but not much else. Bronwen was more respectful, but that didn’t help I was scared stiff of both of them. Bronwen was huge and strong, Gus was small and unnerving.

This was the most amazing start. My fear was well and truly out in the open, it was quickly very clear there was no hiding it from these two…they’d entered my world and I was exposed.

Our mental health becomes disordered the minute we first experience fear, probably before birth but certainly from the moment we’re born. If our experience of fear is not allowed to run its natural course and disperse, then it builds and attracts more fear-filled events which confirm our view that the world is a threatening scary place. Fear lies behind the symptoms of all mental health disorder; if the fear can be located, acknowledged, identified and released, the symptoms can naturally disappear. It is exactly the same for horses, they’re prey animals attuned to fear as a survival strategy; they prevent it wreaking havoc on their nervous systems and general health by releasing it before it reaches the point of overwhelm.

Horses living naturally, with space, company and good grazing know that fear is an essential survival mechanism. They are alerted to danger, they respond and let go when the danger is over. The whole process completes from alarm bells to grounded calm in as long as it takes to be certain that both the environment and other herd members are safe.

Horses in a less natural environment sometimes struggle with overwhelm as their capacity to release fear becomes limited. Without space in which to run free and without close relationships in the community of the herd, they can feel vulnerable and unsafe. The life affirming support and protection of other herd members allows them to completely let go, relax and feel safe.

When we, as humans, enter the natural herd, the horses scan us and skillfully read the energy created by our fear; and yes they do feel and see our fear but interestingly they don’t always respond to it in the way we would expect. Armed with a clear energetic template of our fear, the herd members check in with each other and then the environment to see if they too have cause to be fearful, if no threat is seen or felt in either their environment or the herd’s response they return to grounded calm … why would they do otherwise? They’re safe, the fear is ours, not theirs.

Their innate ability to read our fear is at the heart of the horses’ capacity to heal. The Natural Herd is exactly that, natural, it is working with the rhythm of nature at its very purest. In doing so it heals, rebalances, cultivates, nurtures and nourishes life itself; when we enter the herd we become part of this wonderful healing, rebalancing cycle. How amazing is that!

However, what remains is for us to learn to do this for ourselves and this is where the The Natural Herd Model came into being. We can re-learn; we have always known what the horses know, but forgotten, how to scan for our own fear levels and energetically release fear as we acknowledge, identify and let it go.

At Hopethruhorses we help a wide range of people of all ages and from all walks of life. Each dealing with their own personal set of symptoms. Many come hoping to recover from the devastation and fearfulness of trauma and anxiety or the hopelessness of depression. While others battle with self-hatred and non-existent self-esteem that results in an eating disorder.

​We also do all we can to help improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people, many of whom have complex emotional, behavioural and social difficulties.

The horses are no exception. Previously unwanted horses and ponies find a home and a purpose in the herd. In return for peace, love and the freedom to become horses again, these magical creatures give themselves to people, and are instrumental to their healing. Clients come to Hopethruhorses to aid their own recovery and in doing so, also to give purpose to rescue-horses.

Written by Joanna Corfield at Hopethruhorses