About Rosie Withey
I’ve spent my whole life on and around horses: competing, training and simply spending time with them from a very early age.
They have supported me through some of my darkest times and accompanied me on some of my most exhilarating experiences and I have learned (and continue to learn) so much from them. When I look back on my own journey I realise that interactions with horses have been some of my greatest catalysts for change and healing.
My horse, Jack, has been one of my most important teachers, and his arrival in my life marked the beginning of my journey to EFL. You can read more in My Story
I now live in a beautiful home with my partner Andy, daughter Vanessa and Jack Russell Alfie. Jack lives in the adjacent fields with his pony friend Bramble. They are my Equine helpers, gently guiding my clients to experience wonderful insights in private sessions and Discovery days.
I run my workshops at Treetops Farm in Bruton, Somerset and at other venues.
I feel very blessed to be doing what I love, working with horses and people and bringing together all the knowledge and experience that I’ve gained from my own journey and from working with the many wonderful clients I’ve had over the years.
- Coached the British pentathalon team for 2 years – to olympic gold success!
- Competed successfully in affiliated dressage & eventing
- Audited a 3 year training programme with Philippe Karl, a French classical master
- I hold qualifications in Reiki and Radionics and have integrated the practice of the Alexander Technique and Mindfulness for several years
My Methods and Philosophy
The philosophy that underlies all of my work, whether in EFL, wellbeing coaching or rider training, is that your relationship to yourself, and the ability to be who you really are, is the foundation from which all relationship springs – with your loved ones, your professional colleagues, your wider community and also with your horse.
It’s well known that who we are and how we feel emanates out and affects everything around us. We know how it feels to be in the presence of someone who is genuinely calm, compassionate and interested; these people have a warm, gentle and uplifting energy. Equally, we have all experienced being in the company of someone who is out of sorts. Many people are hiding their true selves, whether that’s because they fear being vulnerable, are taking a path that is not of their own choosing, or for whatever reason cannot express how they really feel. We are energetic beings, and can sense the disconnect between the real person inside and the mask that they wear.
EFL – Methods and Philosophy
Horses, with their sensitive, social natures are adept at picking up on our real feelings and connecting with the authentic person that we all are inside. They simply respond in the moment, without judgement, and they do not hold grudges.
Simple, mindful, interactions with horses and sometimes even just being in their presence can uncover unconscious patterns of belief and behaviour so that we can bring ourselves into balance on all levels of mind, body, emotion and spirit. Then we can reconnect with our natural creativity, let go of our mental chatter, and flow with our emotions.
These are some of the lessons that we can learn from them:
Horses are present to what is happening in the moment, alert to their surroundings and curious about what’s happening in their environment. Being in their presence can help us calm into that state. We begin to cut off from the mental chatter and simply ‘be’ and with that comes a sense of peace.
Horses use their emotions as information and change something in response so that they can ‘go back to grazing.’ They don’t hide or suppress their emotions – they meet and move through them, and this enables them to be ‘in flow.’ Observing horses and interacting with them helps to raise awareness of the ways that we are incongruent and gives us an opportunity to feel, respond and flow with our emotions like they do.
Horses eat, drink, sleep and play when they feel called to do so and they are sensitive to their herd members. Many humans have disconnected from their ability to have fun, to take care of their own needs, do what they love and create. Through different experiences with horses we can become aware of and move through emotional and mental blocks, so that we can access our authentic creativity.
Horses use their bodies as sensing devices. They listen to the information from their emotions and feelings through their body sensations. Working with and spending time with horses can help us to understand what our body is trying to tell us, and to bring ourselves back into presence.
It’s one thing to learn these lessons in theory but the real benefits come when we put them into practice. Spending time with horses, as well as working and training them is one of the best ways I know of integrating mindfulness and emotional intelligence skills into our everyday lives. The power of this learning cannot be underestimated.
Each EFL experience, whether a private session or a group workshop, has a structure and a theme, which is set either by the type of workshop or by the private client’s needs. This sets the tone of the session, but is flexible to the individual or group needs and desires.
The sessions include a combination of theoretical discussion, reflective and interactive time with the horses and creative activities to consolidate the insights and learning.
Coaching – Methods and Philosophy
I integrate sensory awareness, mindfulness, and other social and emotional intelligence skills that I have learned from horses into my phone and Skype life coaching sessions, and this adds a further depth of experience to my approach.
Clients bring their own theme or challenge to these sessions, and if required I begin by teaching some theoretical material. Then, through emotional and body awareness, I guide them to find clarity, direction and confidence and with it a sense of wellbeing and fulfillment.
Some of my coaching clients are interested in my philosophy, but can’t make the trip to a workshop and others have phone/Skype coaching in between their experiences of workshops or 1:1’s with the horses.
Riding – Methods and Philosophy
My underlying philosophy applies equally to rider training, in that I believe that the relationship with your horse is two-way, and begins with your relationship to self. Horses are very sensitive to our body sensations, breathing and movements. When we become self-aware we can learn to respond authentically to our feelings, adjust our imbalances and enjoy a way of training and riding that is mutually enjoyable.
We learn so much about ourselves being in the presence of and owning and riding our horses, but when we meet a problem we so often attribute all of it either to ourselves or to the horse. In fact it is a two-way learning process, which the owner/rider takes responsibility for.
Most of my clients already have good relationships with their horses, but are looking for help to move through their problems. I guide them to work through whatever challenges they are experiencing, whether with behaviour, confidence, posture or training methods, whilst maintaining the connection and relationship.
I grew up in the Somerset countryside, surrounded by animals; the child of a straight talking Yorkshire man and a strong willed, intuitive, farmer’s daughter. Not wealthy, but rich in experience, we were surrounded by animals and had space to run and play. My Mother trained horses and ran the local gymkhana, and both she and my Dad had lively, active social lives.
It wasn’t like that for me though; I rarely socialised. In junior school I was the ‘snob on the hill’ and the ‘teacher’s pet,’ and it’s true, I was a model student. At my very first school my teacher would rap me over the knuckles with a ruler if I made a mistake, and I soon learned to do my best. I lived in fear of getting things wrong though and would feel sick to my stomach every Sunday night. That feeling continued well into my 40’s…
At least I had my ponies – my best friends and confidantes. I would spend hours grooming them, plaiting their manes for shows and of course, riding them. I’d been a regular competitor in horse shows since the age of 4, and I guess I enjoyed competing. If I felt any sick or vulnerable feelings I would sweep them away, seeing them as just a part of who I was.
My career path wasn’t clear after school. I toyed with involvement in the racing industry but I had no real enthusiasm for it, and I later realised that was my Mum’s dream not mine.
Horses were still my hobby though. A steady stream of them passed through my life, strong willed, sensitive, and often challenging. With love, patience and consistent handling, I brought them on as well as I could and prepared them for new owners with whom they could grow. Each horse had its own story and taught me its own important lessons.
Eventually I trained as a riding instructor and opened my own riding school – Hartley Wood Riding Centre. I became intrigued by the inter-connection between horse and human, and the way the animal’s reactions changed with the rider’s mood. My clients might’ve been able to fool me with their smiley face but the horses would know if they were stressed or tense and would spook or misbehave.
I went through a lot of changes during this time. I gave birth to my amazing daughter, Vanessa, but then went through an acrimonious divorce from her father. I also lost my mentor, my dad… and with him my connection to what was important to me. I was a nervous wreck but most of my clients at the riding centre had no idea, so good was I at ‘putting on my mask’ to protect myself.
Exhausted, I began to seek alternative and complementary therapies, and a colleague introduced me to a Reiki healer. It all seemed a bit ‘spooky’ to be honest, and no wonder! In hindsight it was the beginning of a closer connection to my spiritual self. In the years that followed I trained in, and started practising Reiki and Radionics (distance healing)
I became more and more intrigued by the human/horse dynamic and the mind/body connection, and eventually went back to college to study Hypnotherapy. Shortly afterwards a medium told me I would make a great life coach and even though I had no idea, at the time, what that was, within a few months I was training to become one.
One of the activities on the course was to visualise our ‘Ideal Day’. (You can read about it in my Blog – Follow your Dream,) and just over a year later we were living at Brickyard farm.
Then my horse, Jack, came into my life. He was so handsome; it was love at first sight. As I write, I still feel embarrassed at my naivety and how ‘disconnected’ I was from my true feelings. My old conditioning and well-worn pattern of wanting to ‘heal’ him meant that I wasn’t honest with myself about his challenges.
You can read more on my blog about the journey I went through with Jack and the lessons I learned from him. We were both transformed by our experiences, and it marked a pivotal time in my life and my understanding. It was also the catalyst for my discovery of Linda Kohanov’s book ‘The Tao of Equus’
So I began my journey into EFL. My first experience of it was life changing and a massive turning point in my life.
I deepened my awareness of this amazing body of work and knew that without doubt that I wanted to pursue EFL as a way of living. In February 2009, I was on the plane heading off to the EASE Programme, the first step towards Linda Kohanov’s EFL instructor programme in Arizona. I was beginning a new adventure and this time it was my own dream!
During the first part of the programme I met Carol Roush who was to become my mentor, and someone I have worked with in many ways over the years. Through a combination of interactions with the horses, coaching and the theoretical components of the Epona approach I started a very long journey to connect more deeply with my authentic self.
After completing the EASE Programme I applied to do the Epona Apprenticeship, even though by this point I felt as though I had completely dismantled myself and wasn’t sure whether I was yet whole enough to begin this rigorous training programme, but I still completed it, and in March 2010 I was delighted to become an Eponaquest Instructor of EFL.
Afterwards I continued to work as a Freelance Riding coach, although from a new perspective. I became much more focused on the awareness of the rider and the physical movement of the horse.
I also began to offer an Epona Introductory workshop to bring together everything I’d learned throughout my life. I travelled in Europe facilitating for Eponaquest, and earned myself the title of Advanced Eponaquest Instructor. When Carol created the Medicine Horse Way, based on the Eponaquest approach, I became a master instructor and now lead the facilitation of the NOW Programme (a two part intensive programme which she also created) in the UK.
My challenging journey with my horse Jack continued during this time, leading me to pursue many healing modalities and to study with Peggy Cummings of Connected Riding and classical riding trainer Philippe Karl. Finally, I decided to retire him. It wasn’t what I wanted – my dream was that I would restore him to perfect health and we would gallop off across the fields into the sunset. Then the end titles would roll and I would write a book about my experiences.
It wasn’t the end of the movie at all though. I realised that Jack’s job had been much more important than that. He had come to teach me how to ‘be’ my authentic self, speak my truth and honour my vulnerability.
Many of us are drawn to help others because of our unconscious desire to facilitate our own healing process. The joy for me was that this process became conscious and I now realise that it is because of my life experiences that I can help others. With each new client and each new horse comes another lesson and another chapter of my own story.
I am now truly fulfilling my life purpose and my business is growing steadily. At long last I have learned that ‘Success is about the journey, not the destination’