Another course comes to a close. There is always a bittersweet feeling in the air – we are sad to say goodbye to people who have become part of the HorseBack family, but we have a sense of delight and hope as we see the great strides they have taken during their time with us.
As we gather for a final debrief, two enduring themes come up. These are a wonderful increase in confidence and agency – from the moment these course participants came through our gates to now, when they leave us – and also a more sturdy, profound, reliable sense of self. There are so many strands which make up the HorseBack process, but perhaps the one which makes the most difference to these two changes is the doing of things our people thought they could not do.
We never push them, but we can often see their capabilities more clearly than they can. So we encourage and offer challenges and, very gently and carefully, invite them to step beyond their comfort zone. Sometimes this is done with deep thought and empathy, sometimes with humour. (If you can make someone laugh, you are halfway to banishing fear and doubt.)
In their turn, they find the courage to step up, to say yes, to take a flier. And there they have it: proof of concept. The thing can, indeed, be done. Whether it’s riding a horse bareback, or forging a relationship of trust and ease with a half-ton flight animal on the ground, that sense of achievement runs deep and can be read across to many other situations. It lives in the body and in the heart and in the mind, and nobody can take it away.
Sometimes, it’s about reminders – that however the world has bent them or chipped away at them or even broken them, they still have, somewhere inside, untouched and unbroken, the qualities and capacities to stand tall and face their own fears.
We witness all this with admiration. It’s not easy to come back. When you are down, it’s not a straightforward matter to rise again. But it is possible, and we see it every week, and our belief is rewarded with the belief of these courageous human beings, the veterans and those still serving, who are willing to admit their vulnerabilities and to rediscover their strengths.