This is not a week I’d like to repeat. Breeding horses is never easy and for us on the farm here in Fermanagh, it’s been a tough one. I’m writing this in the early hours with my husband’s coat wrapped around me, sitting on a bale, laptop balanced on my knee, minding my thoroughbred mare who sadly lost her foal at seven months into her pregnancy.

It’s tough, and as I celebrated the Irish-bred horses on the national team as they gave us a thrilling second place finish in the FEI Longines League of Nations in Abu Dhabi, it’s hard for me not to think of all the hard-working breeders whose hopes and dreams are dashed on a lonely early morning on the yard.

Genetic harmonies

Breeding horses means different things to different people, for some it’s a commercial exercise, for some a hobby, for others it’s an art form – a way to add something positive to the breed. Hours of pouring of pedigrees like poetry, finding those genetic harmonies which might, just might, lead to a success story.

Success stories with horses are myriad though. Some horses achieve success by partnering a child over her first 90cm course, some cross the line at Cheltenham victorious. I firmly believe there is a job for every horse.

Earlier in the week, I helped three old thoroughbreds enjoy a surprise new job. These lucky lads have been racehorses at the Enniskillen CAFRE campus most of their lives, point-to-pointing and then teaching our jockeys and grooms of the future just how it’s done. Beautiful souls too, as gentle as they come. And as the students discovered on their Wellbeing Day, these thoroughbreds also made perfect Equine Assisted Learning partners.

I am a qualified Equine Assisted Learning practitioner and a passionate advocate for the use of former racehorses in Equine Therapy. Watching these thoroughbreds interact with young adults would bolster any heart. Loose in the indoor arena, they supported the students in exploring exercises in coping with stress and anxiety, confidence building and in team work.

Horses are powerful tools for positive change if you let them be. They’ve been our partners for over 6,000 years; through wars, through the birth of agriculture, through sport. It’s possible they have another role now too, perhaps when society really needs it most – they remind us how to be human.