Emotional Resilience: Finding Strength from the Herd During Life Transitions


When asked what I do, here in the deepest rural southwest of France, I usually reply that I host retreats, onsite but also online, for those who can’t escape to the south of France at the moment, to help my guests deal effectively with stress, specifically the stress that is caused by going through a life transition. My retreats are different from other similar retreats because I have two unique “aids:” a small herd of Friesian horses and the Camino de Santiago de Compostela on my doorstep.

Life transitions can be challenging and overwhelming, as they often involve significant change, uncertainty, insecurity and a range of complex emotions. Whether it’s starting a new job, getting married or divorced, becoming a parent for the first time or coping with an empty nest, moving to a new city or country, retiring from work or dealing with the loss of a loved one, managing a chronic illness, recovering from surgery, a significant inheritance or bankruptcy or starting a new business, navigating these transitions requires resilience and inner strength. In this blog post, we will explore the powerful role that interacting with horses can play in helping us find strength and build resilience during life transitions.

Because going through a life transition is a tremendous opportunity for emotional resilience development and growth. Margaretha Montagu

I am going through yet another life transition at the moment.

Emotionally, life transitions can have a profound impact on us. They often stir up a mixture of emotions, such as excitement, anticipation, joy, fear, anxiety, confusion, sadness, frustration, impatience, anger and even grief. The process of transitioning from one phase of life to another can be daunting, as it involves navigating unfamiliar territory, letting go of what we know and trust, and embracing (sometimes major) change. The inherent stress and uncertainty associated with these transitions can sometimes feel overwhelming, leaving us feeling vulnerable, uncertain, and lacking security and stability. It is during these times that horses can make an enormous difference.

This life transition made me feel all of that, and more.

Horses, as highly perceptive and sensitive prey animals, possess a remarkable ability to offer non-judgmental support that fosters deep emotional connection and trust. Their innate sensitivity allows them to sense and respond to subtle cues from us, offering us a soundboard to bounce our emotions off.

As always, my horses are supporting me during this life transition, but it was only when I realised that this life change is a tremendous opportunity to become more emotionally resilient that I stopped feeling as if I was trying to ride a bucking horse.

What a liberating feeling! I got off the horse and got on with my life.

When my retreat guests interact with my Friesian horses during life transitions, they often experience a similar positive impact on their emotional well-being.

The bonding process with horses is a transformative journey in itself, much like walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Horses have an uncanny ability to tune into human emotions and reflect them back without prejudice. This creates a safe and supportive space for us to express and explore our feelings. Horses provide immediate feedback through body language and behaviour so that my guests can gain valuable insights into the complex emotions that arise during life transitions.

Horses offer a safe space for my guests to practice emotional regulation. When we are able to regulate our emotions, communicate calmly, and remain present in the moment, horses respond positively. This interaction provides a tangible experience of emotional regulation, helping my guests develop coping strategies to manage stress, anxiety, and other challenging emotions that arise during life transitions.

Additionally, horses can help us to develop coping strategies that also promote emotional resilience. As we engage in various activities with horses, we are challenged to adapt, problem-solve, and find effective ways to communicate with the herd. The process of overcoming challenges and establishing connections with horses instils a sense of accomplishment and builds confidence, strengthening clients’ ability to navigate emotional hurdles in life transitions.

Emotional resilience is not about suppressing emotions or denying the difficulties we may encounter. It is about acknowledging, understanding, and effectively managing emotions in order to navigate life’s challenges in a life-enhancing manner. By cultivating emotional resilience, we are better equipped to cope with the emotions life transitions generate, ultimately leading to greater well-being and a more impactful, rewarding, meaningful and fulfilling life.

This is why I do what I do, during both my online and onsite retreats, I empower my guests to become more emotionally resilient, so that they can live more impactful, meaningful and fulfilling lives.


Life transitions may present formidable challenges, but they also offer the opportunity to increase your emotional resilience. Interacting with horses can enable you to find strength, build resilience, and embark on a journey of personal empowerment during a life transition.

© Dr Margaretha Montagu

PS. My Online Retreats

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