The Best Place for Your Horse's Learning
Welcome to the herd!
Are you looking for a place where your horse can learn naturally, in a gentle and relaxed atmosphere where she / he is treated with respect and care, taking her / him to high levels of finesse in a spirit of fun & connection?
Welcome to the Holistic Horsemanship approach.
Your horse can stay with us on a Training Livery programme, for example:
to give her / him a foundation of education for handling, leading, general care & vet care, trailer loading;
to train her / him for Liberty, riding, harness, bitless and in finesse;
For behaviour rehabilitation – to overcome fear or a particular issue;
to teach her / him specific skills for your particular needs;
to help you bring her / him to a particular level in the discipline that you choose (Ground, Ridden or Harness).
Natural Training & Natural Boarding – The Holistic Approach
Your horse's training with us is done entirely through the Holistic Horsemanship Approach, following the Horse & Heart Training curriculum + any special requirements you may have – for the most natural possible learning experience.
All livery horses live in the herd, outdoors 24/7, as this is essential for their physical / mental / social health & wellbeing, allowing them to move, forage for food in the hedges, and engage in play with each other freely.
Your horse must therefore be barefoot during his / her stay with us.
Our herd live in a "Paddock Paradise" style track system suitable for rustic breeds, "good doers" and metabolic type, laminitis prone horses. Grass keep is also available.
We do not stable horses but a barn is available for sheltered grooming and care and for veterinary needs.
Horses can be trained at any age.
We take on foals & fillies with their mothers from day 1 of their life! (see the Mare & Foal School below)
This training programme is suitable for mules and donkeys as well.
Sadly we cannot accept stallions (entire males) over 9 months old on the premises as we are not set up for it.
We can board mares, foals and geldings only.
Scroll down for Training Packages
What to expect
We draw out your horse's training plan together according to yours and your horse's needs and estimate the duration of the training.
Depending on the length and intensity of your package you will receive either weekly or monthly feedback and we can reassess and readjust at any time.
You are welcome to come and watch your horse's training sessions when practical.
You will be expected to take some lessons (included in the package) to bring you to the same page and level as your horse.
All packages have a minimum duration of 1 month, payable in advance.
Scroll down for Training Packages
(min 1 month)
5h misc horse training / lessons per week
See below for more info
All Packages Include
Basic Natural Livery Boarding as part of the resident herd (£220 / month)*
(£380 / month for both the mare and the foal in the Mare & Foal plan)
Water & Grazing + Giving Feed & forage at the same time as the rest of the herd (feed & forage not included)
Daily check for health & wellbeing
Grooming & picking out feet 1x / week (this may be part of the horse's training programme)
Space for storing basic tack onsite (at owner's own risk)
Discounted Training Prices (£55 /hour instead of £65, further discount in the Intensive Package)
Extra time given for care / special turnout routine / extra feed / vet or trimmer supervision (£10 / hour)
Vet, health care, dentist, trimming costs
We do not put on or take off rugs, nor offer clipping unless it is done specifically for the horse's own health. The lifestyle we offer isn't generally suitable for clipped horses. However we can teach a horse to be relaxed for rug routine and clipping as part of their training programme.
Forage – when feeding hay we split the cost of the bales used between the number of horses. We use Organic meadow ay made of herbs and wild grasses.
Hard feed – either supplied by the owner, or we can supply in some cases and split the cost between the horses.
Medical Remedies – to be supplied by the owner.
The cost of Basic Livery Boarding may be reduced by offering volunteering time instead (for poo-picking or other routine /maintenance tasks).
All horses on Training Livery may participate in supervised Horse & Heart lessons with other students, where it is beneficial to the horse and to his / her training programme. This may be groundwork or ridden and is offered as free bonus training hours.
Mare & Foal School
Suitable for foals / fillies and colts from 0 to 2 years old*
Give your baby horse the best possible start in their education by allowing them to grow up with Holistic Horsemanship handling.
In a herd of horses socialisation starts on Day 1 – with the gentlest possible learning of how to be with others, day after day. The most natural way for a horse to learn to live amongst humans is by following the same pattern as they do with other horses, with very gentle and gradual introductions to companionship, contact, play and boundary rules, with age-adapted goals and touch.
As foals – like babies – are extremeley sensitive, every interaction and experience will shape them for life. It is therefore a crucial time of their learning how to be with humans, one that has to be held with special skill and care. But it is also an extraordinary opportunity to teach a horse to respond with complete trust, with utmost lightness, and in the most natural possible way, to the cues we will later need in handling, riding, and working together.
The Mare & Foal School is a 6 to 9 month programme where both mare & foal come and stay with us during the education of the foal: allowing the gentle and progressive handling and education of a little horse up to L5** of the Holistic Horsemanship Training Programme.
This means: all leading, care handling, groundwork skills on the rope and at liberty taught in the natural way, at the natural pace of horses, with the comfort and security of Mummy's presence.
As in the wild, horses are weaned very slowly and gradually until they are 18 to 24 months old, we allow the same natural rhythm of learning here by welcoming the mares to stay with their foals & fillies whilst they go to school.
At the end of this period, foals and fillies are "pre-started", which means that they have learnt the foundation skills in a natural way and will remember them forever. But they are still "green", and will need to anchor their learning over time, once they are old enough for more intensive training after a break of a year or 2.
This is the best way to start your young horse up on the right foot for their future life with humans, and for a successful relationship together.
During the "School" time, a few handling sessions for the mare are generally necessary too, as well as the training of the owner to catch up on the horses' skills (included in the package).
It is possible to add more sessions to include further training of the mare as well and / or more lessons for the owner too.
* Please be aware that we can only accept entire male foals up to 9 months old, and fillies and geldings up to the full 2 years old.
** If you choose a 6-month plan your foal will probably get to L2 /3. Depending on the emotional needs and on the learning skills of the horse, 9 months of regular training may take him/ her to L5 in the finesse of his/ her groundskills, on the rope and at liberty.
The same plan is also suitable to start any young horse even without their mum, or in some cases for a full re-education of an older horse – and, of course, for the training of wild horses too. For these options just choose one of the standard packages and specify the duration and goals.
The Holistic Horsemanship Training Programme
L1 – Trained by the herd
Horses in the wild are born and educated within the herd. Foals learn from a young age how to communicate and how to interact with other horses, and each horse has a place. A new arrival in a herd will be re-educated to those communication and social skills if need be – the most natural and efficient way to regain mental & emotional balance and learn some manners. We just let the herd do its job!
L2 – Connection
- Connet & interact respectfully with a human – Liberty
L3 – Basics: Building Trust
- Handling for general care, hoof & vet care
- Basic Desensitisation: tools & tack, simple objects, sounds & movements
- Calm & confidence in every move
L4 – Foundation: Building Skills
- Leading / Rope work
- Energy & Touch Communication: Responding to Feel
- Energy & Rhythm Communication: Responding to Intention
L5 – Advanced: Building Partnership
- Overcoming fear - Desensitisation: scary objects, sounds & movements, tight places
- Leading as partners / long lining
- Energy & Touch Communication: Responding to Feel
- Energy & Rhythm Communication: Responding to Intention
- Circles and long ropes
L6 – Specialisation
- Preparation for Riding / Work in Harness
- Preparation for hacking / road / unknown environments
- Preparation for your tailored specialised skills
L7 – Competence
- Riding Naturally (Freestyle)
- Working in Harness Naturally
- Specialised skills
L8 – Finesse
- Balance, Lightness, Calm & Harmony in all skills
- Bridleless Riding
- Taking the skills to Mastery
Depending on your chosen area of specialisation this may be in partnership with other trainers.
This outline gives you an idea of the progression of the training and the targets set for each level.
Of course, the training happens organically and the order of specific learning outcomes is flexible.
For example, preparation for Specialisation (L6) is already present in the Foundation (L4). Some horses who come to us might already have achieved Finesse (L8) in certain tasks but may need to re-learn some Basics (L3) in other tasks.
There are also different levels of the same learning outcomes present throughout the programme.
The structure of this programme follows the horse's natural development and logic in their understanding of given skills.
For example, they need to let go of fear before they can learn, and they need to understand their relationships within the herd before they can respond to requests and directions from people. They also need to understand feel and intention on the ground before transferring those "commands" to riding, etc.
Without the appropriate foundation for each skill, there will be significant gaps in the horse's understanding and ability to respond, and therefore, ultimately, in your safety. It would be a bit like building a house without all the walls to support the roof... Here we're looking at building (or repairing) all the walls before putting the roof on top – and putting in insulation, too.
Think of it as a school system: L1 & 2 are pre-school; L3 & 4 primary school; L5 & 6 secondary school; L7 is College,: L8 is University; and Refinement is your Doctorate – carrying on refining to the level of your dreams.
Each horse is assessed acording to this layout of skills and whether we take it from scratch or simply fill some gaps, the goal is to achieve a solid and thorough foundation for the level you want her/ him to be at.
If your horse wasn't trained through a system of foundation to specialisation or through lightness of feel and intention (i.e. backed without groundwork, or bitted without halter training for example), do expect him/her to have to go back to basics first.
« I just can't believe it is the same horse... I never thought I'd be able to feel safe, and to communicate so gently with him. »
« This feels so gentle and so natural! My foal seems to know nothing but lightness and willingness, he is already turning into my dream horse. And I'm astounded by how he completely understands what I ask of him! »
« I was never able to stop this horse – he was so strong he always bolted through even the strongest bit. And now, on a head collar only, I stop him with just a sigh. It's simply incredible. »
« I feel so lucky to have found you. This is unlike anything I've ever known, and I've worked with horses for 20 years. I count my blessings every night! »
« This is so much FUN, and I can see my mare is definitely enjoying herself too! I had never felt that connection before. It's like we're truly playing together, and she is so light to all my requests. It's fantastic!»
« Wow. Wow. Wow. I thought I knew this horse. I thought I knew horses!! I am simply stunned... and so excited!! »
« I feel so at peace in knowing, and seeing, that this is the best possible education for my daughter's pony, to make him a safe and willing partner. »
Lull the Mule
who didn't want to load
For pictures of harness training, please see our Working Horses page!
Does my horse need to have his/ her own tack when coming in for training?
Yes, he /she will need at least the basic tack for him/ herself: a grooming & care kit and a Natural Horsemanship halter and rope, plus any specialisation equipment that you need for your goals: i.e. saddle or harness if relevant.
Bt don't worry if you do not have any tack to begin with, you will be able to borrow some from us.
For yourself, a riding hat comforming wih current UK standards is compulsory for all riding lessons, and for children it is compulsory for grounwork too. This cannot be borrowed as it has to be professionally fitted, you must have your own.
Please do not buy cheap / counterfeit tack as yours and your horse's safety and comfort rely on it – ask us for advice if you're not sure what to buy.
What about feed and extra care?
You will need to provide your own feed, supplements, and any medicine your horse might need, wormers etc.
The price of Basic Livery as part of the training packages is kept to an aboslute minimum in order to facilitate affordability, therefore only the most basic care is included so that if that's all your horse needs, you won't over pay. Any extra care or handling however (i.e. extra feeding, giving medicines & vet care, extra handling outside training etc) is provided according to the horse's needs and charged for at an hourly rate. So please account for that when setting your budget!
When the herd is fed hay the cost is split between all the horses and your horse's share is added to your bill.
If your horse needs vet care or her hooves trimmed while with us you will need to arrange and be present for that – although we will help where needed. Special circumstances can be discussed to find a plan that works for you.
How long does it take to get a horse through the entire curriculum?
We recommend 8 to 12 weeks to train up to L7 on a standard package. It can take longer if your horse has some issues or if you choose a Budget training package, or if they have never been ridden before. It can also be shorter if your horse has already had a good foundation training and/ or is a confident and quick learner.
Remember that you will be learning too! To keep up with your horse's level you may need to carry on taking lessons for yourself after your horse comes home.
If my foal / filly went through the Mare & Foal plan, how long to get her/ him through L7 or 8 when she/ he is old enough?
If your horse has achieved a L6 as a youngster, and especially if you have carried on handling them and playing with them following the same approach after that, they will be very quick at picking up the Competence skills as they are only transferred from the preparation levels.
Even if there has been a long break in between it will come back to them quickly: skills learnt at an early age are deeper ingrained and more stable than those learnt later.
For L7, typically count 2 to 4 weeks. For more solidity and confidence, allow more time (either in training or at home with you).
The duration of L8 will depend on your horse's natural ability for balance, and on what they've been doing in the meantime. We will discuss all this together when working out your horse's plan.
Of course all horses are different and some may need more support and longer learning time, but in all cases it is always most valuable to give them a sound and solid start.
Will my horse cope with the lifestyle at Horse & Heart?
Our herd lives together, outdoors 24/7 on a Dartmoor farm, browsing on wild plants and drinking from natural water.
After an integration period (1 to 5 days) guest horses run with the herd – although special arrangements can be made when practical. All horses who join the herd must be barefoot (you will need to have shoes taken off before arrival if your horse is shod) and, of course, they have to be sound and healthy.
In the Spring & Summer, all horses should be able to live this lifestyle comfortably. In the Winter, rustic breeds and healthy horses cope very well in these natural conditions too, but as often not much training can take place in the Winter due to the weather anyway we recommend keeping your horse at home then.
Why do I need to take lessons as part of my horse's training?
Your horse will be, in effect, learning a common language between horses and people: how to relate to each other in mutual trust and respect, and a series of subtle cues for given tasks to perform. You will need to learn the same language so that you can understand each other.
And most of all, the journey of Holistic Horsemanship is one of partnership: the language is only the tool to create a bond of trust and respect between you. As for horses only certain individuals in the herd are qualified to give others directions, you need to learn how to be that qualified horse so that your horse responds to you as well as she does to me.
Can my children take the lessons within the training package?
Yes, absolutely. They will need to if they are the ones who will be handling / riding the pony.
Do you use bits & saddles?
The entire curriculum is done in a Natural Horsemanship rope halter and at Liberty. You will never need to use a bit for riding if you do not wish to.
If you wish to use a bit, you will need to understand why and how they function and train your hands as well as your horse to the utmost level of lightness. Bits should never be used for control, only for precision in finesse, and should not be introduced before Refinement level.
We will help you horse transition from the bit if you are already riding bitted.
Horses are typically trained to be ridden using a bareback pad, and then whatever other equipment you wish to bring.
The welfare of the horse will be the priority when considering tack: a horse needs strong back muscles to be ridden bareback and some horses may need an appropriate saddle to support your weight if they are to be ridden – or more time to muscle up.
Why don't you accept stallions?
As stallions can procreate, we would need to keep them separate from our mares. Sadly we do not have the adequate fencing or space to do so safely and effectively.
Are you insured?
Yes, we are fully insured.
Marie is a qualified BFEE2 Natural Horsemanship practitioner and an experienced instructor.
She has developed the Holistic Horsemanship approach through years of intensive study and practice with master horsemen and women and through immersion in herds of semi-wild horses, as well as through training in shamanic healing and Animal Communication.
Marie is passionate about education and is a dynamic instructor dedicated to the continued development of her teaching skills with adults and children. Her background in alternative and conscious education gives the foundation to the ongoing improvement of unique teaching programmes for holistic learning, community building and personal growth.