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Animal Assisted Self-Confidence

As you know, I assist youth and young adults access resilience and confidence within their being. I mainly work with horses with Equine Assisted Learning and Coaching and also run groups called Fireside Chats for teenagers. These group chats are proving to be excellent in creating a safe space to share what is real and close to their hearts. Much courage and clarity and group bonding have emerged from these gatherings. More on these in another post,


I want to share a story regarding a twelve-year-old girl, who will we call Sally (not her real name ), who came to me last week. It was her first session. I knew as we did an initial assessment that it would be too much on the first day for her to work with the horses. We decided to walk and talk together instead. She shared how difficult it was for her to reach out to make new friends. She was afraid that she would not be liked or ridiculed and felt very self-conscious about herself and cried while sharing this with me.


We chatted about having a value system on the type of friends we would like in our life and decided that kindness, honesty, and seeing how the potential friend respected others, would become criteria to adopt when choosing who to reach out to for possible friendshsips.


My dogs happily came on the walk with us as we tracked through the woods on a cold but bright Winter day. This young girl told me much about her insecurities and yet by the time we got back to the parking area she had rosy cheeks and was feeling much happier and as she said more” in” herself as she put it


On our return from a wood walk, we put the dogs into the back of the car and got into the front seats for me to drive back to our destination. Immediately, my female dog broke all protocol by climbing up over the back of the boot area onto the back seat and out onto Sally's lap, She sat there defiantly looking at me and if she could speak, stating not to send her back to her dog area. She looked proud and self-assured with her head high her chest “puffed out “ sitting almost cat-like and upright. When I asked Sally what did it mean that this little dog broke through the ground rules and made it from the back of the estate car to sit on her lap.


She said “ I need to be like this “ I need not worry about what people think and do what my heart wants “ I can see how confident she is"

With that, my little dog rested her head on this girl's chest. I asked Sally to breathe into her heart and receive what the dog wanted to offer her.


By the time we reached our destination, she shifted from being a frighted insecure girl, somewhat capsized in the way she was in her body, to one walking more upright and making direct eye contact. She saw that a little dog with a funny tooth sticking out wanted to sit on her lap and be her friend and had no sense of feeling that she was not good enough. Sally left me with a beaming smile, hugged me saying that she wanted to return for more such sessions


Later that day I sat with Pixie, a little Jack Russell, and said that she was like a little pony with this person and thanked her. I can believe that she heard me as she looked up at me intently with smiling squinting eyes. This was a lesson to me too, that when I trusted not to go to the horses in this case and to do what was within comfort for this beautiful young person, nature and her sentient animals still came in with their wisdom.


“Everything in Nature is dripping with Love, my precious friend now passed Sebastian Cox used to quote We are in times of much flux and change, and perhaps Nature, her steadiness, her all-inclusiveness, her creatures offer us another way to be without the inner critic analyzing and self-assessing every action.


May we move with heart these days. Heart/ Love first for self and then for those in our lives.


Grá Abu







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