By Professor Adéle L Moodly, Registrar
Manager of Academic Administration Suzette Flanagan presented the effect of horses on people's well-being in her motivational address at the annual Registrar's Division Women's Day event on 10 August 2022. This event recognises women's strengths in adversity and is done in commemoration of women and girl-children who continue to experience the injustices of a patriarchal system.
Suzette mesmerised participants with her stunning images of engagement with her graceful, elegant and powerful horses (Misha, Venus, Cassie, Milly and Tally). She explained that it is not unusual to have a matriarchal leader in the equine family, with the mare chosen for her seniority in age and wisdom. It is not aggression or power but care and compassion that draws the herd to her. Suzette described the leader as "usually an older mare. Not necessarily the bossy one but one with life experience that the herd can trust".
Trust plays a central role in how horses relate to their leader and each other, as well as to humans. Suzette explained how horses relate to and impact well-being: "Horses develop trust through consistency. If you are consistent, you are dependable. If you are dependable, you are trustworthy; if you are trustworthy, the horse will become at peace with you, and you can work with them."
Suzette drew a beautiful analogy on life balance, spreading her arms wide to express what was meant by this. Holding her arms horizontally, straight at shoulder height, she explained that life balance is not always about an equal balance on both sides of a scale and keeping these in equilibrium. Balance differs from person to person. Tilting her arms in a see-saw motion, she said that life balance could also be teetering at times. It is about being alert and aware in life and knowing what is best for you to bounce back to a balance. "Horses live in the moment – they think, feel, respond and react," stated Suzette. Another lesson that we can take away.
A notable characteristic of horses is their ability to remember, forgive, and adapt (move on). "Even after bad experiences, the moment you improve or change, or their environment changes, they adapt and move on. Horses don't hold grudges," Suzette explained.
Her question to the participants was: "Are we living today with the burdens of the past? Are we aware and connected to our inner-self enough to know how we really feel right now? Or do we ignore these feelings and just carry on?".
In closing, Suzette stated that it is our inner connectedness that brings us back to balance. These are just a few valuable life lessons we can learn from our equine friends.
Last year's Registrar's Division Women's Day seminar can be found here: Of life balance and quilting