Horse Whispering Levels Courses
for competent horsemanship
The Holistic Horsemanship curriculum for children, with age-adapted sessions.
Building confidence and safety around horses, learning true finesse and gentleness in handling – a foundation to Mastery for all equestrian disciplines.
The programme includes:
- Ground skills
- Teaching horses new things
- Equine Ethology & Psychology (Theory classes)
- Positive Leadership
- Desensitisation (overcoming fear)
- Practical skills (trailer loading etc)
- Natural Husbandry and care
- Riding Naturally (optional)
- Draft Work (optional – see our Working Horses page)
Courses of 2 to 5 days
For your own group
At your own venue with your own horse
Or with the Horse & Heart herd
Suitable 8 to 15 y.o. in groups of similar age
The Levels curriculum is suitable for children who want to learn more in-depth skills and technique and achieve true competence in the art of horsemanship; although the teaching style remains the same throughout our courses – fun, play-based learning following the children's (and the horses') ryhthms, encouragement-powered, no pressure and all inclusive.
Horsemanship means learning true horse language – how to become the horse's teacher, and, in their eyes, their "lead horse". Ideal for training your own pony, as a way of gaining confidence in the world, or simply as a fantastic activity.
The foundation skill set of this programme is essential for anyone who handles or keeps horses, and is a beautiful journey of connection and partnership for a fulfilled equestrian experience!
The programme starts with understanding horses in their natural setting (equine ethology) – how they think and feel (equine psychology), learning how to be like a horse among horses. Then moving on to playing and bonding, at Liberty and with a rope, and riding / draft work for those who wish, to finally lead on to horse training for any discipline.
Holistic Horsemanship also develops personal skills such as self-confidence and expression, conscious communication, team building and cooperation, positive leadership, resilience and empathy, emotional intelligence, and motor skills.
Each module is an in-depth study taught to the highest scientific standards, and hands-on skills are developed to refinement level. This programme is a path of mastery and excellence exploring knowledge, skills, and self understanding to a deep level. More than a technique, it is a way of life.
The first modules take place in the Horse & Heart herd, and thereafter you can follow the curriculum either with the Horse & Heart herd or with your own horse or pony.
No previous experience is required to join in.
Simply please be aware that the horse world is an outdoors and physical lifestyle, with exposure to the weather and which challenges souls and spirits to keeping growing.
Children who already have an equestrian background are welcome of course, they simply need to be aware that they will learn again from the start and that some of their old habits and beliefs won't apply – this is something new and different.
The journey can be taken further with the True Ways Apprenticeship programme, and all the way to professional level of horse training and instructorship.
Please remember that if you are starting on the Holistic Horsemanship journey, you are the student and your horse is your teacher – although you will learn new skills together. It is advised to follow the programme with an experienced horse who is comfortable around people – and to get to Level 7+ before taking on a young or troublesome horse.
However, if you've already got a young or difficult horse then do come anyway! – you will have the opportunity to practise with school horses before handling your own horse.
Scroll down for more info
You will need to gather together a group of children who can meet at regular intervals for the courses.
The course fee is for the whole group – payment shares are organised between group members.
Groups are kept small to ensure the best level of personal attention, quality of teaching, and group dynamics:
Maximum numbers 6 participants.
Depending on the age group, parents may be requested to be present during classes.
LEVELS 1 & 2 take place in the Horse & Heart herd.
From LEVEL 3 onwards, courses can either continue in the Horse & Heart herd, or take place at your own venue, with the children's own horses.
From that point it is also possible to bring your horse to the Horse & Heart centre for the courses if some of the participants in your group wish to carry on working with the Horse & Heart horses.
Scroll down for more info
With age-adapted content and teaching rhythm.
Includes theory module: Equine Psychology part 1 ; introduces Horsemanship Ethics
A Natural Approach: Introduction - Ethology & Liberty - 1 to 3 Days (Horse & Heart herd)
Includes theory module: Equine Psychology part 2
a) Advanced Herd Connection (Liberty) - 2 to 3 Days (Horse & Heart herd or trusted herd)
b) Natural Equine Husbandry & Nutrition - 1 to 2 Days (Horse & Heart herd or natural setup)
Level 3 - Training principles:
Including theory module: Psychology of Learning part 1
a) Overcoming Fear - Desensitisation - 1 to 3 Days
b) Horse Language in practice: Energy & Rhythm - Responding to Intention - 1 to 3 Days
c) Horse Language in practice: Energy & Touch - Responding to Feel - 1 to 3 Days
Natural Handling for Vet & Hoof Care - 1 to 3 Days
Level 5 - Rope work & Liberty - Preparation to Riding:
Including theory modules: Psychology of Learning part 2 ; Equine Temperaments part 1 ; Creating a Training Plan
a) Advanced Energy & Touch / Energy & Rhythm - Responding to Feel & Intention / Trailer Loading - 3 to 5 Days
c) Advanced Desensitisation - 3 to 5 Days
Includes theory module: Equine Temperaments part 2
a) Liberty with Purpose - 3 to 5 Days
b) Foundation to Riding (specific) - 5 Days
c) Preparation for hacking & unknown environments (Groundwork) - 5 Days
a) Riding Naturally (Freestyle) - 5 Days
b) Wild Pony Training (subject to venue) - 5 Days
c) Foal Training (subject to venue) - 5 Days
Level 8 - Finesse – Balance, Lightness, Calm & Harmony:
a) Liberty in Finesse - 5 Days
b) Riding in Finesse – all disciplines - 5 Days
c) Riding Bridleless - 5 Days
d) Training in Finesse - 5 Days
Your Path – tailored coaching to Mastery - Custom
Depending on your chosen area of specialisation this can be tailored in partnership with other instructors.
Apprenticeship & Professional Training offered*
* See Menu
The durations mentioned are a guideline to the time needed to complete each theme. From L2 onwards, themes are usually mixed during a single course to be introduced as is naturally needed.
However generally speaking a group must complete a level in full before moving on to the next level, except for L7 b & c which are optional.
Where there is a choice of duration, choose the full course for an in-depth experience orthe shorter length for a taster.
Younger children may need a shorter course to meet their learning capacity, whereas older children may be happier with a longer course.
In order to keep the momentum of learning courses are ideally taken at 1 to 3 months intervals (depending on the age of the children and whether they are training their own ponies during the programme or just working with the Horse & Heart herd), however it is possible to space them out further.
It usually takes 2 to 4 years to get to Refinement level if consistent and regualr time is dedicated to practise.
For the curriculum for draft work see our Working Horses page.
Scroll down for more info
Certificates of Attendance are delivered for full attendance to a workshop or course.
Certificates of Completion (optional – L3 onwards) can be applied for by demonstrating each task of a level with one's own horse.*
Certificate of Mastery (optional): Students demonstrate the tasks for each level with 3 horses representing all learning temperaments + show one creative goal of their choosing.*
* For Completion and Mastery levels, tasks must be performed with a horse who has been trained by the student, not with a school horse. Completion of a level includes having followed the complete theory lessons as well as showing the practical tasks.
These certificates are optional – only for students who request them – and students can take as long as they and their horse need to complete them at their own pace. Students who wish to carry on to professional level must complete Mastery standard for all levels.
Scroll down for more info
What to expect
Unless specifically specified modules can take place either with the Horse & Heart herd or at your own location, with your own horses.
When working with their own horse chidlren will need to have their own tack.
School horses from the Horse & Heart herd come with their tack.
However, all students must provide their own equipment for themselves (appropriate clothing and footwear, riding hat).
Riding hats, professionally fitted and complying with current UK safety standards are compulsory for all classes for children under 15 (including groundwork) and for everyone when riding.
Groups are from 3 to 6 children. When working with the Horse & Heart herd children might have to share a horse with another student.
Select your course theme, location and length (when applicable) upon booking.
When you create your own group, the sessions are totally tailored to your group's rhythm and needs (horses' and humans') and the curriculum may be jiggled around to accommodate what is best for you.
When attending a course module the lessons are structured in levels covered in depth including practical skills, theory classes, personal growth practices, group supported learning and co-coaching.
In each session students are given new tools of horsemanship and we make sure that these are understood correctly and applied safely.
The students then take them home to work on as homework (when practical) and we keep working on them together until they are fully assimilated and students are ready to move on to the next level.
Students may take the time they and their horses need to explore the learning outcomes and there is no pressure to keep up as everyone can wok on their own tasks within a level. Themes can be revisited over several courses before moving on to the next module.
All of the curriculum's levels & themes and the learning outcomes covered may be made flexible for children depending on their learning rhythms and needs.
Scroll down for more info
- The best way is for your child to complete the full programme in the Horse & Heart herd, especially if they are new to horses or to this approach.
- If you already own your own horse or are experienced in Natural Horsemanship, for your child to complete L1 & 2 in the Horse & Heart herd before picking up with their own horse.
If you wish your child to practice with their own horse or pony, please choose an easy and experienced horse as their partner. The horse is the teacher, they need to have the stability and maturity to take on that role for your child, and only adopt a horse if you are an experienced horse owner yourself.
Please be aware that educating a young horse, a wild horse, or a troubled horse with behaviour issues requires skills of an advanced level (L8+). Please do not ask a child to take on that task – have a look at our Training Livery options to accompany you on this journey. Unfortunately we cannot accommodate stallions on group courses.
Scroll down for more info
« There is so much connection between the children and the ponies, They seem to understand each other completely! I didn't know that was possible. » Parent
« It's such a high level of skill, I mean, none of my daughter's friends who have been riding even for years can do what she can do with horses. » Parent
« When I was little we were taught to push and shove horses, and to be so hard. And this is all gentleness, lightness, and so much connection and fun... This is WONDERFUL . » Parent
« Thank you very much for the astonishing session you gave my granddaughter on Saturday. We neither of us had any idea it was going to be so profound, and we are very grateful to you for sharing your wisdom. » Grandma
« Look at the big smiles on all their faces... And if horses can grin too, this lot certainly are grinning now! » Parent
« I love learning horse whispering, I can talk to my pony and she understands, and we play together like real friends. I know how to look after her, so she looks after me. I think she loves it too. » Child
« We absolutely loved your workshops! You have given us so much nourishment and encouragement and work to get on with -Inner and Outer….My daughter has really been inspired to do a lot of work with both horses, on the ground and riding and with the rope halter and the long rope too! » Parent
« None of my horsey friends understand horses the way I do. I can get them to do things when they were afraid, to trust me. I know what they feel and how to talk to them. » Child
« I love it that the horses come to us when we arrive, and include us in their herd. They are as happy to see us as we are to see them! » Child
« What we do here brings us closer together – I feel that we will all be friends forever, even those we didn't know before. Because we have done this together, and we understand each other in a better way. » Child
« This is the way I wish I'd learnt to connect with horses. Every child should have that. » Parent
What kind of background is required to start learning Holistic Horsemanship?
No previous experience is required. The journey starts with getting to know the horses and learning their language and everyone starts again from scratch as the skills are specific.
There is no pressure to learn fast either, you can just take your own time.
If you come from an equestrian background, great! Your experience will be useful to you, but be prepared to have to unlearn and re-learn a lot too.
And yes, everyone can do it.
Do children need to have their own horse to follow the Horsemanship Levels programme?
You don't need to have your own horse, you will learn with the Horse & Heart herd – and work on some concepts and simulations at home as personal growth practices. It is the best way to start connecting with horses!
Just be aware that some higher level modules are only open to students with their own horses, and also that some certificates are only possible to apply for with your own horse. These are not compulsory however.
When (or if) the day comes for you to have your own horse you will be much quicker to go through the programme together!
What equestrian discipline is this approach suitable for, and what level can it take to ?
This approach is the foundation to all equestrian disciplines and leads to a professional level of horsemanship. It teaches the horse to respond to your lightest touch or change of energy and focus, to trust your calm in every situation, to take responsibility for a task and to understand the subtlest cues, from basic to advanced exercises. It teaches the human how to act like a lead mare to gain the horse's trust and respect, and the skills to become the best possible teacher, knowing how to adapt to any horse.
Once the foundation is in place, the finesse levels look at the specifics of each discipline according to your needs : whether it is hacking, jumping, dressage, logging, carriage driving, draft work, circus shows or anything else – from there on you can take it to the highest levels, building on your skills.
Think of it as a school system: L1 & 2 are pre-school; L3 & 4 primary school; L5 & 6 secondary school; L7 is A Levels graduation,: L8 is University; and Refinement is your Doctorate – carrying on refining to the level of your dreams.
Is this approach suitable for draft work with working horses ?
Yes, absolutely! See our Working Horses page for more info.
How long does it take to complete the entire Levels programme?
This is totally dependent on:
- What your previous experience is
- What age your horse is and their background
- How much time you put into your study
- To a certain extent, how quick a learner you are at mental, emotional and motor skills .
If you can spend 2 to 4 hours per week practicing and take each module intensively, you could complete the curriculum in 1 or 2 years.
Usually, dedicated students spend 2 to 4 years to get to Refinement level.
If you're taking it at a slower pace then it's entirely up to you.
Once you reach L8, the journey of refinement continues forever after - and you can look at training to become a professional.
Children, however, tend to learn much faster!
How long does it take studying groundwork before I can ride / work in harness?
This also depends on the same factors:
- What your previous experience is: you will need to be eased into riding gently if you havent' done it before.
- If learning with your own horse, what age your horse is and their background: a horse's bones finish solidifying between 5 and 7 years old. Before that, they can have a rider on their back and learn some riding cues depending on your relative weight to them, but they can't be asked to do a lot physically. If your horse is "green" or has behavioural issues you'll already need to be an experienced rider. The same applies to pulling heavy loads although a lot can already be introduced in harness without too much weight.
- How much time you put into your study;
- To a certain extent, how quick a learner you are at mental, emotional and motor skills.
In all cases, the concept of this approach is to establish a solid relationship of trust and clear communication with your horse before riding or working in harness. It will take as long as it takes for you to establish that together and that can vary a lot.
Generally speaking, if you're taking lessons in the Horse & Heart herd, riding begins around day 25 of your training . If you are learning with your own horse and if your horse is already experienced (backed) and has no behavioural issue, and if you can spend 2 to 4 hours per week practicing and take each module intensively, you could start riding within day 5 to 10 of your training.
If you're taking it at a slower pace, or if your horse needs more time to work on fear, then it can be any length of time.
But don't worry about it too much. This is all about the relationship, and every step is of such depth and beauty that it hardly matters what happens when. It will happen when it is right for you. Meanwhile, a lot of people find so much joy in playing with their horse at Liberty that they never even bother riding again! Your journey will be unique. It will be yours.
Is it compulsory to follow the entire curriculum?
Not at all. You can take the modules one by one up to the level of your choosing.
You do need to complete a level before moving on to the next though, except where specified otherwise.
You only need to follow the entire curriculum if you wish to train to professional level.
Can my child join an existing group?
Yes, open classes will be listed on our Calendar page.
Alternatively, you can book your own group on the Courses page.
What if my child don't want to ride?
That's perfectly ok – lots of people don't. There is so much to do and enjoy with a horse on the ground – from Liberty to rope work, personal growth skills and even working in harness if that's something they'd like to do. Just take the modules that suit and inspire them for their own unique relationship with horses.
Do you use bits?
The entire curriculum is done in a Natural Horsemanship 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 to 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.
If your horse is not safe to be ridden / taken out without a bit, he /she is simply not ready to be ridden or taken out!
During the programme, we can help you work on a plan to transition from the bit if you are already riding bitted.
Can my child ride bareback?
Yes, you can ride in whatever style you like.
When learning a new skill the priorities will always be:
- The horse's comfort and welfare
- Your safety
For example, if your horse hasn't muscled up his/ her back he/ she might need more time before he/ she is ridden bareback or to be ridden in an appropriate saddle to help support your weight. You will also need to consider how long you want your riding sessions to be: for your horse's welfare, if riding for long periods at a time you will need to dismount for long breaks especially if riding bareback. If you haven't got much riding experience you might be safer in a bareback pad to begin with to help build your balance. We can discuss all this together and help you find what works best for you and your horse.
Is the programme suitable to people with special needs?
Yes, of course. So long as safety can be ensured, the lessons are always tailored to each student's needs anyway. In some cases special arrangements will need to be made such as adapted learning tools or a carer being present for example.
Do contact us in advance to discuss any specific requirements you might have.
Will I need to buy anything for the lessons?
You will need to bring suitable clothing and footwear.
A riding hat conforming with current UK standards is compulsory for children in all lessons (including groundwork), and also compulsory for adults when riding. (Unfortunately we are not able to lend riding hats as these must be professionally fitted for safety.)
If working with your own horse you will also need the standard Natural Horsemanship training tools (stick, string, halter and rope), as well as any tack necessary to your training goal (for example your own saddle, harness, or other tack).
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.
Is this programme suitable for stallions?
Unfortunately, we cannot accept stallions (entire males) on courses due to the risk to other participants and horses and to there being mares on the premises.
In terms of training, stallions use the same language as other horses of course, so the learning outcomes are as relevant to them as they are to any horse. However, due to their position in the herd, stallions do not take directions from any other horse than their lead mare, and they take their job and responsibility very seriously. Working with stallions without having a long and thorough experience of horses and before having achieved Mastery standards of L8 is not recommended as it can be unsafe.
Should I buy / adopt my own horse?
If you are new to horses, the best thing is to learn the foundation skills with the school horses of the Horse & Heart herd before taking on your own horse. You will then have a solid foundation when the time comes to adopt a horse: knowing how to set up their environment for their health and welfare, how to handle them safely and how to look after them.
If you have a lot of experience with horses and know what you are doing, then you'll probably benefit more from taking the journey with your own horse.
Only consider adopting a horse if:
- You already have a lot of experience in horse care, husbandry and training.
- You have completed L1 to 4 of the Holistic Horsemanship curriculum with confidence and can get some qualified help if needed.
- You intend to keep your horse in Training Livery with us until you have achieved that level.
If this is your first horse you should choose an experienced horse who is used to people, safe to be around and easy to handle.
Be particularly careful not to choose a horse unsuitable to your level and skills. Many people will sell horses to unsuitable buyers and even lie about the horse's issues or simply be unaware of them. Take a competent person with you to advise you when choosing your horse. This horse will be your teacher, she needs to be able to step into that role for you.
Only buy a horse for your child if you are an experienced horse owner yourself, and if you can chose a suitable horse for your child's level and skill.
Only adopt a wild or young horse if:
- You have a lot of experience;
- We recommend completing at least your L6 + L7 modules in wild / foal training beforehand.
- You intend to keep your horse in Training Livery with us until you have achieved that level.
A wild or young horse will be impacted by every moment of interaction and the smallest thing can scare them or shape their behaviour for life. It takes a lot of skills to handle and educate them positively.
Do not expect a young or wild horse to be your teacher: they rely on you to know what you are doing and they are in a vulnerable position there. Only take them on if you are ready and qualified to step into that role for them.
Remember also that horses need to live in herds and to be able to move a lot outdoors: please do not consider keeping a horse on their own or stabled a this would be damaging to their mental / emotional and physical welfare.
If you are ready and have the appropriate setup, then enjoy a happy time with your horse!
Can my child train to professional level?
Once they have completed your Mastery level, they can train to become a Holistic Horsemanship practitioner.
Can this approach help my child get over a fear of horses?
Yes, this approach is the best way learn the skills to overcome fear and to take it at your own pace, with no pressure.
Being wary of horses if you don't know them is a very healthy place to start from as it keeps you safe! Your confidence will grow as you learn their language and as you establish your new position in the herd.
Can this approach be a self-development / social development practice?
Yes, absolutely! Some of our courses are specifically focused on this. You can also book your own tailored Theme Course, where a personal plan is drawn with each student / group or family according to their own wishes and needs.
Contact with horses, and particularly approaches like Holistic Horsemanship which focus on self-awareness, have been shown to help with (amongst others):
- Building Confidence
- Developing Transferable Learning Skills
- Social & Communication Skills
- Emotional Intelligence
- Recovery from trauma
- Motor Skills & Problem Solving
- Positive / Collective Leadership Skills & Team Building
- Developing Empathy
- Finding a Purpose
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.