A different type of Riding School
Think Like a Pony
In this second of our three-part series of blogs from Lynn Henry, Founder of Think Like a Pony, we find out how the Think Like a Pony Riding School & Youth Development Programme began.
Established in 2013, Think Like a Pony empowers children through horsemanship. They are leaders in the field of children’s natural horsemanship, equine therapy and online horsemanship.
The journey of getting to know and understand ponies had a very powerful effect on me. I couldn’t understand why there was so much about horse training and riding that didn’t make sense. For some strange reason, or because I am passionate about the truth, I decided to try to educate and inspire people to do things a bit differently.
I came up against a lot of opposition but with true Yorkshire grit, I was not deterred. As a freelance instructor, I travelled the country offering Think Like a Pony lessons and the results achieved spoke for themselves. Horses, ponies and people began to feel more comfortable about what they were doing, why they were doing it and how they did it. It being riding, handling and developing a positive relationship with a pony or horse.
As a mum, I wanted to help other mums and trainers to see that children can train and ride ethically. This way, a child is empowered through the experience and both child and pony benefit mentally, emotionally and physically. I wrote a series of workbooks to help families work together to develop their horsemanship skills.
Through the success of these workbooks, people started to ask me to do lectures, demonstrations and training of other likeminded people. “This is it!”, I thought, “People are starting to listen. They are understanding that there is a more holistically way to train ponies and horses to work with children.”
I had a vision that a riding Centre could be child centric, offer holistic horse care, help a child to develop confidence and become self-aware and resilient through balanced, ethical riding. No one believed that this was possible. A riding Centre devoted to the welfare of ponies and children was a pipedream - not financially viable, or necessary. Well, I believe in dreams, and I believe in children.
I was offered some ponies to rehabilitate and, if successful, to use in my dream Centre devoted to children. All of those ponies are still with us today, and are not only happy and well-loved, but are helping children to learn the true value of ponies and riding.
I grew the riding Centre using the facilities at hand on the farm and the arena that we had built for our children. Our reputation and our holistic approach to children and ponies started to spread and soon our riding school was at full capacity. But there was more I wanted to offer. I knew that there were many children who would benefit from horsemanship and riding, but who would never have the opportunity.
Ponies and horses had enriched and changed my family for the better, and I wanted anyone who needed ponies in their life to be able to access these wonderful animals. This was why I developed the Youth Development Programme, as it is called today. It is a free at point of delivery programme that follows the Think Like a Pony ethos. It empowers disadvantaged children through horsemanship and riding, to become authentic, calm and resilient.
Children who attend the Centre develop an understanding that all relationships are based on mutual trust and respect. They build relationships with the ponies that are a win-win for both as they develop their communication skills in a supported and inspiring environment. The mainstream riding Centre and the Youth Development Programme work hand in hand.
The instructors working here are passionate and highly skilled in delivery and horsemanship and it is a very happy and caring place to work. At the moment we have one hundred children in the riding school, sixty in the Youth Development Programme and eight instructors on-site!
At the beginning of my journey, my dream was to build a child-centric horsemanship Centre here at the farm, one that could be accessed by all children in the community. Throughout the development of Think Like a Pony, more and more people joined me in the vision that this dream would one day become a reality. I am now thrilled to share that we will be moving over to a new purpose-built Centre this summer! This dream will only keep getting better as we share this ethos and the possibilities for success with other like-minded people.
Read more Lynn Henry with Think Like a Pony by reading our last post.