Meet Ahanu!

Student and horse

It was a hot day at Urban Stable. Ahanu* sat atop his horse, May, sweat accumulating on his brow. He held his reins and tried his best to focus on keeping his hands quiet and still, opening his hand in the direction he was asking May to turn. He remembered to sit tall while sinking his seat deep into the saddle. Ahanu was able to maintain his focus, despite the feeling of discomfort the hot day was presenting. When Ahanu first started at Urban Stable, this challenge would have proved too much for him, but through perseverance and determination, he was now able to tolerate uncomfortable situations and maintain his composure, a critical life skill.

Ahanu had selected May as his horse when he first met her. He loved her beautiful black and white coat and her sassy attitude. Ahanu realized that he was a lot like May. Being similar, May was an excellent teacher for Ahanu. He sometimes struggled with feelings of anxiety and found it hard to stay calm. When he would start to feel anxious around May, she would respond by speeding up if she was walking, or struggling to stand still in the grooming stall if she was cross tied. Ahanu could see how his horse mirrored his emotions. He realized if he was going to be a good leader to May, he needed to learn how to recognize and regulate his emotions and energy.

Ahanu practiced his self-control, becoming more patient, and increasing his attention span. It was hard at first, but it got easier as time went on. He was developing his mental muscles and it showed! Seeing the effects of his emotions on May, was a light bulb moment for Ahanu. He realized he could have an enormous influence on the animals and people around him. This inspired him to take control of what he was feeling and not let it control him. His friendship with May gave him the encouragement he needed to face his anxiety and conquer it. He would not allow distractions to rule his life any longer. Ahanu was a champion!

Ahanu’s persistence paid off. His hard work and dedication resulted in him becoming much more mindful. He developed a strong bond with May, and they grew to trust each other. Ahanu could see firsthand how being a good leader meant recognizing how you make others feel. Choosing to acknowledge his emotions but not allow them to distract him from what he was aiming to achieve was a game changer for Ahanu. By so doing, he was able to honour his feelings, and become a wonderful, trusted partner to his horse. A lesson that will stick with him forever!

You can help more youth like Ahanu develop self-awareness, improve their self-control, and learn leadership skills. Horses naturally reflect the energy and emotion we present, making them excellent teachers. They show us areas in our lives we need to work on and help ground us. Donate today!

*name and photo changed to protect their identity