Jessica Kosheiff, a local Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) practitioner, uses horses to teach leadership to children and to help adults facilitate growth themselves.
The practice of EAL consists of using horses and non-verbal communication to help people discover truths about themselves.
“Equine-assisted learning teaches a person life skills,” Kosheiff said. “It has been around for a while, but with the change in approach to mental health that we are seeing, especially during COVID, it has become more popular.”
Kosheiff is originally from England, where she grew up riding horses. She was in love with Canada and moved to Canada at the age of 21 to travel, work, and eventually emigrate here.
After her arrival, Kosheiff decided to live and work near Grande Prairie to find a job as a bank teller during the day and work as a horse repairman and trail guide.
“During my time in Canada, I have always discovered that horses have always had to be a part of my life,” said Kosheiff.
These days, Kosheiff lives outside of Grande Prairie with his young family.
“I have a couple of kids and a surface and now,” Kosheiff said. “It is time for me to give back and give everyone the opportunity to experience the personal growth that comes from working with horses.”
Since Koshieff’s became a certified EAL practitioner, she has opened a practice called Seen and Herd located near Teepee Creek.
With Seen and Herd, Kosheiff offers double duty because often many of the horses he works with are also working on problems.
“It gives unwanted or forgotten horses a job, it gives people a job and it works really well,” Kosheiff said.
Kosheiff entered EAL through a friend and was immediately captivated by the possibilities of using horses for self-reflection.
“Whatever you have on the inside, they will reflect it back to you and make you realize that you may need to fix some things,” Kosheiff said.
Their practice also gives children the opportunity to learn about horses from an EAL perspective, which ultimately leads to better riding skills and leadership skills in children.
According to Kosheiff, EAL sessions essentially configure participants to interact with their horses, and their horses, in turn, will react to the participant.
In one case, Kosheiff recalls bringing someone with anxiety issues into the herd and a horse approached with great anxiety, and they were able to interact and ultimately calm each other.
“The bottom line was that he learned to calm down on the inside,” Kosheiff said. “When she felt herself getting anxious again, she imagined the horse circling around her.
Kosheiff says the therapy works because horses are prey animals and have to always be in the present, while predatory species like humans are always thinking about the past or the future.
“They are always in the present and they always look at each other.” Kosheiff said. “They are always working in packs.”
EAL participants also describe a calming effect when around horses. Kosheiff attributes this to how the horses in a herd monitor each other’s heartbeats to protect the group. If there is a spike in an animal’s heartbeat in the herd, the entire herd will sense it and it will facilitate a group fight or flight response.
“When a human walks in, that’s what that feeling of calm is, it’s like a coupling effect between the horse and the human heartbeat,” Kosheiff said.
To learn more about EAL, Kosheiff says that people can visit his website and social media pages.
“Come walk and talk freely, meet the pack and just live it. That’s the hardest part, it’s coming out for the first time, ”Kosheiff said.