Trusting the Equine Connection
Celia Hunter for The Millbrook Times, February 26, 2015
Cheri Davidson has made her mark on Cavan Monaghan through her very successful enterprise, First Harvest Marketing, developing the branding for the township and working with the community to arrive at the marketing plan for Millbrook which was one of the pillars on which the current revitalization strategy is based. Now Cheri is embarking on a new venture that has been born out of her corporate experience and her natural inclination to help make positive improvements in the lives of others. The clue lies in her own First Harvest logo – a weathervane featuring a horse in motion. It is her love of horses that provided the connection to the leading edge discipline of horse guided learning.
Cheri has recently become certified as a facilitator in the field of experiential learning with and through horses. Her own association with horses makes this a natural fit for her, and she is passionate about the many ways in which interaction between humans and horses can teach, calm, untangle and resolve in all kinds of circumstances and situations. She is hesitant to use the word “heal”, acknowledging that neither she nor her equine partners are health providers in the traditional sense. However, she believes that horses do have a gift for healing and for teaching, and, in the course of her training and in her experience so far, she has seen this borne out time and again.
Cheri describes a corporate workshop she has led, featuring an exercise in leadership. The challenge to the small group, who have worked together in their professional environment for some time, is to direct a horse around and through a number of obstacles from one end of a fenced enclosure to the other, without any hands-on contact with the horse. The group is asked to define among themselves their roles; the visionary, the leader, the driver and the supporter. Working together as a team, they may discover that roles need to be switched, that when, as Cheri describes it, people are required to move out of their head and into their body, and rely on non-verbal communication, discoveries are made, self-confidence soars and strengths are realized. Of prime importance, fear falls away.
Cheri’s equine partners are contently chewing on mouthfuls of hay in the barnyard behind the house. Cheri and her husband Paul were living in Toronto as a young, professional couple when, following their failure to come out on top in a bidding war for what they thought was the house of their dreams, they sat together and wrote on the serviettes in front of them what each would like to do next. They compared notes and they matched: move to the country and get horses. The property they found on Carmel Line, close to the Ganaraska Forest, features both a house and a good barn; a page had turned in their lives.
Paul’s journey has had an impact on Cheri’s vision for what she can offer through Horse Discovery. Paul has been discovering that his passion is for working in a hospice environment with children and families, offering respite and care. Cheri recognizes how valuable the environment First Harvest Farm and the horses can be for families with special needs, and has designed a number of retreat programs that include quiet time in the cool of the pine forest, gentle walks, and time with the horses. Day-long workshops and retreats are designed specifically for supporting people who are experiencing high workplace stress, exceptional family circumstances, life transitions and bereavement. Cheri is also teaming up with different types of therapists who can add an additional dimension to the experience.
Cheri describes the grounding effect that being in connection with a horse can achieve. She demonstrates and she facilitates. Patiently she brings horse and human closer, drawing them together as each feels more comfortable. The confidence between horse and human needs to be shared, and as it is, breathing becomes more relaxed and heartbeat slows. Cheri points out the signs of a horse at ease. She explains their body language. She takes the opportunity to talk about setting healthy boundaries in relationships. She builds confidence in a timid client; promotes a relaxed pace in the getting-to-know-you process between horse and client. She knows the horse has a sixth sense and will understand the client’s needs. Cheri believes that God is at work in the connection that grows, with the horses’ special gifts helping humans learn to live life fully.
Then, through the building of that relationship between horse and human, fear dissolves, and self confidence builds and blossoms. Discoveries about self are made on an experiential level which, Cheri emphasizes, is the kind of learning that is remembered and takes root. She has seen the difference that Horse Discovery has made in individuals who come in workplace groups and as corporate teams, and in those who come for private sessions, in terms of a new-found respect both for others and for themselves.
Cheri also points out that, while this is a learning experience, it is designed to be fun. She sets the agenda and designs the activities and exercises so that the atmosphere and environment are positive and life-enhancing. She is offering an Introduction to the Wisdom of the Horse on Saturday, March 28, inviting participants to come and examine one aspect of their lives that they’d like to change and take away with them at the end of the day fresh insight. This day of horse guided learning includes hot lunch, snacks and all materials and, Cheri adds, no horse experience is necessary; all of the exercises are done on the ground. For information, visit
Barney Gives Back
Horse Canada, Nov/Dec 2015
A feature article about our adopted horse Barney and his transformation. Written by Equine Photographer and friend, Manuela Stefan of Graceful Horses.
Radio Interview with Horse Discovery
Magic 96.7 fm on June 23, 2015
Cheri Davidson explains how FEEL works and welcomes guests to special event at the farm.