In this segment of The Emotional Equestrian, Reset Zone is proud to interview a special guest all the way from Australia – Shonel Balsillie. Shonel is an Educator and Coach. She holds a unique passion for her work with children and horses, specifically through Equine Assisted Learning at her equestrian center Kurshonbrooke Lodge. She aims to equip children with real tools and strategies to ensure they flourish in our ever-changing world.
For centuries, humans have been captivated by the elegance, power, and intelligence of horses; wherever there was a footprint, there was undoubtedly a hoofprint right beside it. Strong yet sensitive animals, with their attentive and expressive characteristics, horses are incredibly caring and intelligent; and they have been incorporated to assist the learning and healing process of people around the world. They have proven to have the remarkable ability to both clinically and non-clinically aid a variety of people, in many more ways than we realize!
Horses are used in a variety of programs to assist certified and licensed professionals, often in Hippotherapy and Equine-Assisted Therapy. These processes are guided by licensed practitioners who utilize the therapeutic abilities of horses to aid with physical, occupational, and speech therapy. There is also Equine Assisted Counselling and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy. These processes are all clinical and run by licensed practitioners. There has been a recent rise in Equine Assisted Learning programs as well, where certified professionals utilize the inherent therapeutic benefits of being around horses to enhance non-clinical activities. One relatively new concept is the pairing of Equines and Emotional Intelligence. What is it about horses that helps people heal, and how could they help us emotionally? The answer to that question will be answered by exploring the pairing of Equines and Emotional Intelligence, with Shonel Balsillie.
As a passionate equestrian, I jump at any opportunity to broaden my knowledge on anything remotely horse-related. When I learned that Reset Zone had a connection with a fellow equestrian (in Australia!), I was over the moon to learn more about how she has combined Reset Zone and horses. I reached out to Shonel, and she explained to me how Reset Zone App is a great tool that she uses in her day-to-day business; Kurshonbrooke Lodge and Emotional Intelligence Generation. Before diving into the horse business, I wanted to explore this relatively new term a bit further; Emotional Intelligence. I wasn’t too sure what those two words meant together, and I found myself perplexed with the question What is Emotional Intelligence? So, I asked around. I talked to friends, family, other fellow equestrians – I wanted to see if anyone [specifically those who do not have beyond essential health & wellness knowledge] actually knew what it meant, but no one knew! Some people had hypotheses, but no one was certain and had never been explicitly taught about it. I had to take the research into my own hands.
I discovered that Emotional Intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, along with the emotions of others. It often includes three main components; emotional awareness, the ability to harness and apply emotions, and the ability to manage emotions. Now that I knew what EI meant, it was kind of mind-boggling how so many people, including myself, were never formally introduced to the concept. Upon chatting with Shonel, I asked her to break it down a bit further for me. I was intrigued to learn how she presented this concept to the children she worked with.
“To me, EI means equipping children with a toolkit, filled with tools and strategies that they can use, to give them the ability to navigate their way through life’s ups and downs. There are many fancy definitions, but working with children, I prefer to keep things simple and relatable! I hope that they [the educational system] realize the academics will not happen unless a child is capable of being socially/emotionally aware in the first place. We need a shift in the way we think about education and children. I personally believe that the educational system is still focused on academics and needs to pay more attention to Emotional Intelligence. Emotional intelligence will really help children flourish and reach their maximum potential when facing the ups and downs of our ever-changing world.”
Upon chatting with Shonel further, I discovered that she is much more than a fellow passionate equestrian and EI guru. She is a wearer of many hats; she is a wife, a mother of two, a teacher, an equestrian coach, and a social/emotional coach! I was intrigued by her many roles; and the fact that she pursued a career out of something she was genuinely passionate about. But I just had to know how she became interested in Emotional Intelligence!
“After teaching children for many years, I had witnessed so many children who were struggling socially and emotionally. The problem was getting worse…not better as the years went by. As a teacher, I just didn’t have the time to properly address the social/emotional needs of these children because the school curriculum just didn’t allow. Children were being diagnosed and medicated. I truly believed that there were many children in our education system who did not need medication but just some explicit instruction on how to regulate their emotions, how to overcome anxiety etc.
In 2014, I became a mother myself. I didn’t want this to happen to my own daughter or any other child. So, I was on a mission to find what was out there to help children. After a solid 12 months of searching, I realized the answer was in my own backyard, horses! Over the years, I had witnessed so many children flourish in confidence and self-esteem because of these amazing animals. With my sister, who is also an experienced Primary School Teacher and passionate about children’s social and emotional wellbeing, and with a partner in the USA, Emotional Intelligence Generation (EI Generation) was born!”
It is truly inspiring how Shonel and her partners took on the tedious task to venture out and start a business of their own, surrounding Emotional Intelligence. Similarly, the Reset Zone App is like a little toolkit, that equips people with the tools they need to hold the ability to be emotionally aware capably. The best part is the Reset Zone App will actually be adding a literal toolkit feature to the new & improved app, launching in 2020! You will soon be able to customize you own toolkit in the Reset Zone App, by saving your favourite content, and the best part is you’ll be able to carry all your tool in one convenient place on your phone. Our app users will be able to access their emotional wellness toolkit whenever, wherever.
As Shonel points out, we live in a society where there is this disconnect between people and their emotions. Many struggle to recognize, and manage their challenging emotions. It is often assumed and expected that people just know how to be resilient right from the time they start kindergarten. Although from a young age, we do learn from the people around us, we do need to be explicitly taught these skills. Slowly, society is starting to recognize the vitality of social and emotional wellbeing. In the next section of this series, we will further explore how Shonel has incorporated the Reset Zone App with horses, and emotional intelligence.
Marina Layton has been apart of the Reset Zone Team since early 2019, working as the Social Media & Communications Manager. When she isn’t with the rest of the team or in-school, chances are you will find her at the barn with her horses! Marina is a passionate equestrian, with an avid interest in mental health, emotional wellness, and all things Reset Zone. She is currently completing a bachelor’s degree in Global Business and Digitals Arts at the University of Waterloo.