Like many before me, when Sarah reached out and asked me if I would like to get involved and write a piece for Equitas, my immediate reaction was one of excitement but also worry.
I thought, how do I best explain what I do, and why I do it, and more worryingly, I have no experience writing articles! I have, however, enthusiastically observed the work of Equitas over the last number of months and strongly believe in the work they do. As I read back through some of the Equitas articles for inspiration, I came across Heather Lemmons article. Heather wrote, “Your story is worthy of being told. Your unique perspectives and thoughts might have more impact than you know”. I knew, in seeing this piece, that I had to at least give it a try.
So here goes everything…
My name is Eadaoin O’ Connell and I am the founder of Siúl Liom, a very recently established Equine learning centre, based in Mungret, Co. Limerick. With the support of my partner Jack, I have developed this business over the past 6 months (and the last 6 years if I am honest). I hope to offer equine assisted learning to individuals and groups of all ages.
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is the practice of working in partnership with horses, in a range of exploratory activities, to facilitate learning and growth in the areas of self-discovery and self-awareness. EAL focuses on developing ones social and emotional competencies. There is no riding involved and no prior horse experience necessary. Between the client, the horse, and myself (the facilitator) we create a safe space for learning and development.
Before it was Equine Assisted Learning however, it was simply an inexplicable desire to be around horses and a fierce fire in my belly.
I grew up on a small family farm, where our main enterprise was suckler farming, part-time. I have always been fortunate enough to have horses in my life, whether it was our family pony as a child, or my first riding pony, to now with my heart horse, Barney. They have been and continue to be a big part of my life.
I relied so heavily on horses growing up to provide me with the unconditional and seemingly endless love that they so readily offer. Our family farm and my upbringing, like many others, is the reason why I am who I am today. I have a lot to thank my family for, not least the privilege of having access to a farm, beautiful land and of course the privilege of having my own ponies over the years. I have also gained a great deal of learning from my upbringing and continue to do so today. I hope to now share part of that learning, which happens to also be my ‘why’ for starting Siúl Liom.
For as long as I can remember, I recall feeling what I described as a ‘fire in my belly’. I remember telling my mam that exact quote, at a young age, while I tried to make sense of the big emotions I was experiencing. I was a very emotional child, and in turn I am a very emotional adult, as many will attest to, I am sure!
Upon reflection this ‘fire’ I felt, presented itself when I felt passionate about something. Usually at times of wrongdoing, injustice, if someone’s voice was not being heard, or if my voice was not being heard. As a child however, I could not identify this feeling, which I now understand to be determination, passion, and ambition. It was confusing, and at times concerning for me. This “fire” led to many disputes with my parents as I grew up (A sentence I am sure my father will be nodding his head furiously at, in agreement!).
These big emotions were often seen in a negative light. I would express my emotions whether it was happiness, sadness, anger, and it was immediately met with a lack of understanding, and often anger. I felt as if it was expected that I refrain from showing these big emotions and I began to learn it was not good to express my emotions. My fire could not continue without someone to encourage it and unfortunately, this was not available. It wasn’t long before it began to fade and it took with it my voice, and often my happiness.
I did not feel understood or loved how I needed to be and for such an emotional child this was difficult. Bishop T.D. Jakes once said, “We are 10-gallon people, but we have been born into families of people who have pint capacities”. Essentially, some people have a 10-gallon capacity for love, while others have a pint capacity for love. Sometimes parents with a pint capacity for love have children with a 10-gallon capacity for love, so although they are sincerely giving their child everything they have, it can never fill the child’s capacity for love. Neither is better than the other, just simply different. I resonate strongly with this as I reflect on my childhood.
I spent much of these confusing moments, running out to the farm to be with the horses, day or night. I spoke with them about these big emotions I was feeling, arguments that were ongoing, and sometimes I would simply ride out to clear my head. Without fail every time my horses walked with me through each emotion. A feeling I am sure many of you can relate to. Thankfully, spending time with our horses kept the fire inside me flickering. There is something magic in horses (although I know I am preaching to the choir as I write that) and they let me borrow some of their power to see me through those years.
In the untangling of these confusing moments in more recent years, I was repeatedly drawn back to the following questions, which I now put forward to you.
-What if we were to view being ‘an emotional’ man or woman as a strength?
- What if being vulnerable was seen as a superpower?
- How many fires have been put out within people, that could have been nurtured into something spectacular?
- How many voices have been quietened when they should have been given a megaphone!
As I embark on this new venture, I hope to mitigate the need to put forth these questions in the future. I aim to combine my strengths, such as my ability to be vulnerable, empathic, understanding and of course my love for our horses, to help empower others.
For me, Siúl Liom is simple. It is about offering people a space to find their voice. A space for those voices to be nurtured and a space for our incredible equine partners to walk with them through those big emotions.
Horses, Equine assisted learning, and now Equitas have given me the space to feel heard, understood, and included. Everyone has a voice and a story to tell, if we can only give them the space, time, and support to tell it.