Horses and the 16 Guidelines – a natural fit!

A Journey of Learning and Growth

Anne Porteous lives in Ontario, Canada. Anne trained as a nurse over 45 years ago and is committed to being a life-long learner and continuing her passion for education, she is an accredited facilitator of FDCW’s 16 Guidelines program and teaches mindfulness courses at the University of Toronto.

Anne is also passionate about horses. She developed equine-assisted learning programs and workshops for youth and adults, including Equine Assisted Mindfulness. Here she shares her story of how she blended equine-assisted learning with the 16 Guidelines program and how people responded.

Developing Wisdom and Compassion: A Unique Program

Here is what Anne has to say about the program:

“During a 16 Guidelines for Life Level 1 training, I met Craig Mackie who is a certified Transformative Mindfulness Methods practitioner and international 16 Guidelines Trainer. Craig also worked in the field of wilderness therapy. After chatting with Craig, we quickly realised that we could share the benefits of the 16 Guidelines program while being with horses and in nature.  It was a natural fit!

Together we launched a joint program: Developing Inner Wisdom and Compassion – Incorporating 16 Guidelines with Equine-assisted experiential learning workshops.

Participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviors, and patterns that emerge. All horse-related activities are done on the ground, under the watchful eye of an equine specialist. No riding or horse experience is required.

Workshop topics include:-

  • personal growth
  • deepening an understanding of ethics and the elements needed to create a mindful society
  • developing a practice to ground the cultural elements needed to create a wiser and kinder world
  • establishing family cultural values
  • career growth and management

During the workshop, a 16 Guideline facilitator presents the different Guidelines then participants choose a Guideline or a Wisdom Theme to work with while they are doing activities with the horses. 

Activities may include walking with a horse[s], grooming, and placing obstacles for horse and human to navigate. Physical obstacles are a metaphor for challenges the person may perceive in their own life. 

As one participant commented, “Setting up obstacles with horses helps me to change my ways of thinking and responsiveness.”

Mindfulness in Everyday Life has now developed into a program offered throughout the year. Simple and powerful words can raise awareness. As someone once said to me during a workshop: – “I never considered the concept of CULTIVATING contentment or delight. “

The 16 Guidelines are being used around the world to take mindfulness into everyday life. They have been taught to school children, hospital staff, people working in the not-for-profit sector, health, mental health, university settings and the corporate world. They are a tool to help create a culture of kindness, wisdom and compassion from families to professionals.

The 16 Guidelines bring awareness to four key areas of our inner and outer lives, guiding us to clarify, understand and intentionally take account of four Wisdom Themes:  How We Think, How We Act, How We Relate to Others, and How We Find Meaning. Each corresponding Wisdom Theme explores four qualities that can shape mindful living.

The Transformative Power of Horses in Personal Development

Horses are inherently genuine and authentic – they can’t lie and don’t pretend to be something that they are not.  They will provide you with honest feedback in the moment.  Non-judgmental beings, they accept who you are as an individual person. Horses mirror our energy patterns and blind spots; behaviours that can stop us from moving forward in life or from moving into our own authentic selves.  Through horse-related activities, participants can apply what they have learned about the Guidelines to everyday life.

People leave the workshops feeling they have personally benefited from working with the Guidelines and that more people should become aware of the 16 Guidelines. Working with horses can deepen that learning.”

Here is what people have shared about their experiences during the workshops:-

“You have to let your pride down when working with such a large animal, that it allows vulnerability to surface and principles to set in.”

“You enter the arena and leave the arena with different people. So much gets left behind; the horses truly know what you need even if you didn’t know if yourself”

“I learned so much about myself and others and how people can support each other where they haven’t before.”

“Such an inspiring and self-reflecting experience. Working with horses will open your eyes to the type of diverse needs of individuals and really forces self-awareness upon you as the leader.”

For more information or to contact Anne, please visit:

Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom (FDCW)

At FDCW we are committed to a more compassionate, wiser world. We provide resources, courses and training to develop qualities such as kindness, patience and courage – qualities which are essential for meeting the challenges of the world we all share.

The Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom (FDCW) was established as a global charity based in London in 2005. Since then we have provided secular training, programmes and resources across many sectors of society – schools, universities, hospices, workplaces, healthcare, youth groups and community centres. Our courses have reached thousands of people across the world through our dedicated and growing network of facilitators in more than 20 countries.

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