Insight Horsemanship

Insight Horsemanship  is relationship based education, establishing trust, and emotional safety that leads to confidence and competence in partnering with horses. Our horses are willing participants, we take our time through patience and respect, learning the subtleties of their body language and how they reflect ‘insights’ into our personal awareness and development. Youth learn empathy, effective communication, clear intention, team work, creative problem solving, critical thinking skills, and more. By combining the practices that involve THINKING (head), FEELING (heart), SENSING (body), this translates into development of social and emotional intelligences, leading to strong life and leadership skills. Our time with the horses is always a metaphorical learning that apply’s directly to life.

Level 1 - Building Relationships with Horses on the Ground

The foundation of building relationships with horses must begin with respectful, ethical and kind practices on the ground.

The practices and principles using positive reinforcement training work WITH the horses nature and will teach youth, how to develop respectful and trusting relationships with horses.

Our philosophy working with horses is based on the Science of Behaviour, utilizing positive reinforcement methods and mindfulness practices.

  1. Understanding the Horses nature, needs, characteristics and how horses learn
  2. Learning the principles and practices of positive reinforcement training
  3. Learning holistic horse care
  4. Developing basic groundwork skills
  5. Learning the practices of Liberty Play
  6. Having fun with ‘trick training,’ games and obstacles
  7. Developing the basics of ‘working in hand’

This program is also suitable for Adults wishing to learn Insight Horsemanship

24 session program (mandatory before riding).

Mindfulness Riding

Building a trusting relationship begins on the ground, all of my students start here and when they have established a level of confidence and competence they can then begin riding. I teach body awareness/mindfulness riding, connecting mind and body, leads to beautiful congruent communication between horse and rider. What my students successfully have learned on the ground is now translated onto the horses back, grounded in safety and willing partnership. Happy horses, happy kids!

Our ponies are ridden bit-less, so youth learn the delicate connection required for good communication.

We currently have six ponies that we partner with for our youth programs, some are riding and some are exclusively ground work.

Level 2: Mindfulness Riding
A combination of continued and advanced groundwork and riding skill development.


  • 1 or 2 youth per lesson ~ all ages welcome
  • 60 minute individual lessons - $50
  • 90 minute individual lessons - $75
  • 2 person lessons for 90 minutes - $100

Equine Facilitated Learning for Youth 

This is a STRENGTH BASED and PARTICIPANT DIRECTED PROCESSING, interactive program, personally designed for youth to develop life and leadership skills in support of personal growth. Horses are ‘Truth Tellers’ offering clear teachable moments impacting youth in mind and body. These equine interactions offer metaphorical, experiential learning that kids can draw from when faced with frustrations and challenges in daily living. These programs offer specific themes with each session and builds upon one another in order to integrate the effectiveness of the program and to track each child’s learning curve. Our focus is on building strengths within each youth and supporting them through guidance, to find what meaning, to specific activities, that is most impactful for them, this is participant directed processing.


Imagine a 1000 lb teacher that is able to discern between behaviour that is uncertain, confusing and misleading and behaviour that is calm, clear, respectful and trustworthy. The horses teach youth how to regulate their emotions, clarify their thinking and respond with integral actions through a series of learning activities that will increasingly integrate with exposure and practice. This way of learning cannot be duplicated in the classroom or through verbal communication only.


  • Inclusiveness – building safety, trust, respect, empathy and kindness
  • Developing self acceptance and confidence
  • Identifying emotions as a language
  • Learning to trust the wisdom of the body
  • Enhance Listening skills
  • Setting clear intentions and boundaries
  • Creating communication that connects
  • Establishing actions with integrity
  • Positive perception of self image
  • Increase supportive social circles
  • Develop authentic leadership and team work
  • Critical thinking and Creative problem solving
  • Overcome challenges through mindful solutions
  • Having fun with horses


  • Behavioural challenges
  • Transition and Change in personal family situations
  • Low self value
  • Bullying
  • Grief and Loss
  • Drug abuse
  • Difficulty with social skills i.e. communication, boundaries, working with others

“Inspired Educators…..Inspired Learners”


“Experiential learning is an intentional approach to facilitation based on the idea that people learn and change when they are actively (physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally) involved in their learning rather than just receiving information.”

In the early 20th century, John Dewey, an educator and philosopher introduced the concept of experiential learning and emphasized the learners need to feel a sense of control over their learning situations and should be provided with opportunities to reflect on the learning experiences so they relate, connect and transfer to real life and future learning. He said, “ The most important attitude that can be formed is that of the desire to go on learning.”

Our activities  and programs are personally designed for youth to engage all of their senses and the freedom to self reflect and be involved in their own processing, in this way youth will increase their learning dramatically.

Research on the effects of EFL are being conducted by these Universities:
- Stanford University
- Prescott University
- Universities of Saskatchewan and Regina.



We are centrally located half way between Victoria and Nanaimo. Stay on the Trans Canada Hwy and drive North through Duncan. Turn right onto Herd rd. We are  1.5 Km heading east - 2541 Herd rd. 


We have an indoor classroom, but be prepared to be outside most of the day. Wear layers of clothing and sturdy closed toed footwear. You will be on a farm with animals, so be prepared that you may get a little dirty. At this point we don’t have an indoor arena, so be prepared for all kinds of weather.


Every participant must have a signed waiver form from their parents. These forms will be sent to you directly. Those that do not have signed consent forms will NOT be able to participate.


We advise that at least two staff members from your organization accompany your group during the program. 


We are happy to work with groups as small as four to as many as thirty, more than that please give me a call and find out what we can provide.


Absolutely not! Our programs are NOT about riding, they are about experiential learning, in partnership, on the ground with horses. We always go through a safety demonstration and will inform you of safety rules, this is our number one priority. If you have a fear of horses, we will support and accommodate everyone’s comfort levels.

Download our Brochure for a 12 week Youth Empowerment Program.

Youth Organizations and Institutions we have successfully partnered with:

  • St. Michaels University School
  • Brentwood College
  • Power to Be
  • Cowichan Option’s Society
  • VIHA
  • Students of Sunrise Waldorf School
  • Artemis Society
  • Students of Home Schooling Groups
  • Maria Montessori

Read testimonials and reflections from participants and support.

Michelle’s Experience:

  • A life long horse woman
  • Certified EFL facilitator
  • Studied with Linda Kohanov of Epona, Debbie Anderson of Strides to Success, Barbara Rector of Adventures in Awareness, Deborah Marshall of Generation Farms, Pj Stegen and Kathy Moore of Equine Experiential Education.
  • Natural Horsemanship training with Parelli, Jonathan Field and Josh Nichols
  • Current student and pursuing certification with Marijke de Jong - classical dressage training
  • Member of and pursuing certification with International recognized Centred Riding Instructors organization
  • Member of and pursuing certification with International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants
  • Certified Body-Mind healing practitioner
  • Diploma of Traditional Chinese Medicine - acupuncturist (not practicing)
  • Certified Level 2 Jin Shin Do (not practicing)

Connect with us ~ Spirit Gate Farms