So where's the snow?

Muddling through life from Austria to Wales; God, life and a small black dog

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Equine Assisted Therapy workshop

Following our training for EAGALA, Edith and I decided to run another Workshop to highlight the Equine Assisted L earning, (EAL) and went for it. This time we invited  people directly, did a Facebook page and invitations, advert in the paper and in the local tourist office – result, three people and two kids from the stables.  I guess its time to re think, we either have to go down the line of going completely professional, doing more workshops, more plugging around offices and officialdom, or maybe just have an open therapy session, such as a de-stress day,or relaxation day, but do things regularly. The other option is just leave it as it is – we get occasional people coming to us.  The changing situation at the stables where there’s more and more liveries who expect to use the arena 24/7 makes it difficult with privacy  and safety. Maybe its time to move on from the horses, despite my love of teaching riding, I’m determined this time to stay on God‘s agenda not mine.

Still it was fun working through the  basic EAGALA exercises and  seeing the dynamics and personalities of our victims, no,I mean volunteers, who were mostly complete strangers to each other.  We’ll see!

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Niedermohr – a place without culture

View from Guest house window

Niedermohr, the village we stayed in, I found fascinating and found out what all I could. The whole area is very low-lying and is obviously drained water meadows with thick black soil.  Yet at the top od the hills, the land is red, like in Devon, and I found they think it is full of sand, copper and iron. 

The houses I soon noticed had their cellar windows above ground and asked the Landlady if this was right.  She said the area is prone to flooding and where they are converting an old house, the earth cellar is constantly wet and they have to lag it.

She herself offered the idea that this area is without culture.  They local population was wiped out by every plague that has swept Europe, with only a resurgence in the 16/17th century before another bout of illness.  It’s not surprising with the low lying, swampy nature of the land. There  was a couple of battles there in the 18th century and a couple of castles still survive.  Farming is decline apart from growing Maize for heating fuel. So how do you attract people to an area where there is no culture?  Is this an attraction in itself?  The village looked just like a commuter belt place, no shop, just the station and many old farmhouses either abandoned or converted into flats. Most of the income in the area is generated by working for or coming from the USA airbase.There is the attraction of miles and miles of unlimited riding or walking.  But this would have to be marketed, with maybe a marked path such as the Niedermohr route if you see what I mean.  The couple who run the Guest house where we stayed have just built extra flats, and maybe they can bring the riders in if they create a riding centre – but the buildings at the Riding school require a bit of investment to get up to licensed standard, at the moment it’s just half livery,maybe if someone needs to invest in a whole new centre! Yet I feel they are on the right way, maybe Niedermohr will just have a horsey culture of its own!

Maybe you could visit to for a ride!

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EAGALA and me!

Part of any EAGALA training is taking part in the activities yourself and so I was watching what was coming up and selected what I thought would be a simple one which wouldn’t be too difficult and then my bit would be done.  So when they asked for volunteers to get a horse (s) over an obstacle without touching the horse (I may remember wrongly) , no bribing and without talking, I thought easy and was there.  So it proved, with us linking arms together and with one of the ladies walking by the horse it was easily done, the only problem was the group deciding if finished.  It was the end of day and we all went home and I didn’t give it another thought.

It was only the next day , when we met again that everything suddenly hit me as others shared their experiences. One lady had been blown away by the whole experience and I’d never noticed.  For once I had completely lost focus on the horse, I was just in on myself and getting finished, and no-one else. I had felt I knew it all and this was just a simple exercise that meant nothing.  I know I’m single-minded, and can really only focus on one area at a time, and now I was showing the traits of the old arrogance – it’s still here.  With this, I felt a little low and wanted to touch and rub a horse. 

This set me wondering, do I prefer animal contact to people?  More affection that way too, due to my untouched childhood?  Do I have a need to touch and feel?  I don’t know!!!  Then one of the horses came and started blowing down the neck of one of the trainers and I was reminded of when I first came to Austria.  Despite all my saying I’d given up horses, I was missing them as they’d been so much part of my life.  I met Edda, who took me to visit her horses and as we went across the field, this huge thoroughbred youngster came up to me and snuffled my hair and I just stood there and felt the comfort of the touch, his interest in me, and was so grateful and touched, I felt rejuvenated.  Then at the training, the Shetland pony who was in charge of hospitality came up to the woman sitting in front of me and began snuffling her – I was so jealous!  I was needing that too, then he came to me, snuffled and lipped the side of my face so it was wet – I had to laugh, I’d got double the dose!  Watching these people I was with, all touching, scratching  and communicating with the horses, I suddenly realised I wasn’t alone.  And that was the greatest peace giver of all, I’m not alone in this bond with horses and from at that moment I was at peace.  If this work can do this for me, what more can it do for those in real pain and damage? How much more when this therapy is used to start God‘s healing?

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Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Training

Horse offering therapy!

This is the third time I’ve done this – mainly so I can keep my certification renewed and it was a great chance to network and keep up with new stuff. It all comes under the banner of Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)  or Therapy  (EAT) which is becoming more widespread as therapy. Last time the training was in Austria and as I’ve said, this time was a bit of a trek.  There’s a part two in the same place this summer, but I don’t think I’ll have the cash!

We had a different trainer this time, Mickey from the USA, so she brought a whole new slant on things. It was far more tiring this time, maybe me, maybe the weather, I don’t know. The training was more relaxed, but its the first time I’ve heard so many people question the method and disagree with it.  What their final verdict is I can’t tell. There were Germans, several Americans, mostly due to the USA airbase in the area, a Dutch couple, a Swiss lady and me as the token Brit! This time, the trainees themselves were discovering things about themselves, which shows how powerful this therapy can be. There was annoyance when it was not picked up that a trainee was in tears, but I could see why myself.  It was a totally unreal situation with people watching, a disparate band of people who didn’t know each other and a task that wasnt related to this group situation.  The trainers did debate what to do, and I think they made a right decision to let the group deal with it. In real life, a parent, sibling or friend would deal with this.  My only question is that if you are providing emotional safety, is comfort a part of this?

We worked though all the standard exercises and what stood out for me, is that I step in too soon, when people should be allowed to,’follow the process’.  We also did role play and I was put in the role of the Mental Health expert which I found really difficult as I couldn’t stop watching the horses. Yet Edith and I both felt we’ve been working together on the right tracks and this has helped us to add more skills to help people.

The only thing I didn’t like was the end, it ran over and people had to go and there was no formal Goodbye, or certificate giving or even a photo shoot, which left me a bit lost. Similarly, the translation between the two languages maybe made things take longer and maybe it would have been better to stick to English or German. However, I was so tired at the end all I wanted to do was get back to the Hotel and crash out! Do look at the articles below.

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Travelling to EAGALA at Niedermohr

Could be pretty in summer!

The journey took twelve hours in all,both there and back and was a major trek.  One thing I learnt, is that whatever you may find on the Internet on the Austrian railway site about tickets, , it pays to actually go into a ticket office and see what deals are on.  At Salzburg we were directed to the German railways desk  , we found out that while we couldn’t get a discount for the day we travelled, on our return in four days, travelling together, we got a 100 Euro discount each, not bad and with a couple more Euros we booked seats.

We travelled from Tamsweg by bus and then train for about 5 hours to Mannheim, then to Kaiserslautern, and then a local train to Niedermohr.  No one checked passports either way, though a drug seeking dog did hurtle past us on its way to the Buffet!  

I love travelling by train and I’m like a Garfield transfixed to the window. Sleeping is also great as you sink into a semi consciousness and are rocked,  trouble is I also want to people and landscape watch. The mountains soon disappeared around Munich and the land was alternatively flat where you could see for miles and miles, or close valleys with loads of tunnels.  It made me realise how closed in we are here in Lungau with our surrounding mountains.  Once past Stuttgart,which at least has vineyards,  I think we were in what must be the most ugly part of Germany although of course by train you are going through the least pretty parts of any area, and also this time of the year is drab and brown. Scrubby pines, wet boggy land, industrial areas – a lot abandoned, graffiti everywhere, just yuck.  It had me longing for home on the way back!  Niedermohr is on the edge of this, and while it is mostly watermeadows, it has hills and beechwoods and apparently miles and miles and miles of bridleways – one guy said he takes off regularly with a pack-horse and never sees a soul.

Meanwhile, at Kaiserslautern, we had a delay and arrived late for our connection.  As we piled off the train in a rush, someone shouted and pointed at a train saying Niedermohr, but when we got on, we were in totally the wrong direction! We got off at the next station and a nice lad showed us the bus stop and we got on one leading us back to the railway station.  The driver was helpful, but we nearly forgot Edith’s bag, then after ten minutes walk and having to ask directions, we arrived with twenty minutes for the next train.  What fun…. We arrived at our Hotel, completely flaked out but relieved.  We met the other guys who were on our course, had supper then conked out!

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EAGALA Training

I first did my training EAGALA before I left England feeling for some reason I needed to do it, but wasnt sure why.  God needed me to do it here!  When I re-did the training here, it was bliss to do it in English! So to keep my certification up to date and my knowhow, Edith an I are off the Germany to do an update and a little networking.  We’re also sending letters to local companies and charities in the Lungau looking for sponsorship when the snow clears – at present it just isn’t possible!

I still have no idea of my working future here. I applied for a job that was ideal, but have heard nothing back.  It was 20 hours a week and flexible.  maybe I shouldnt have sent it by email. I seem to be regaining my ability to make wrong decisions!  I keep on dreaming I’m back at the Burg too, which isn’t good! The chalet job just isn’t working, this month being the busiest of the season and I only work once.  But when I chucked it, she offered me a summer job gardening at about ten hours a week – worth thinking about.  I knew somehow  she would offer me something else, and my gut feeling was always good about this – I leave it to God to make it clear!