Mary Ann Brewer always wanted a horse. “I had that typical Black Beauty fantasy of falling in love with a horse and riding off into the sunset,” she says with a laugh. Brewer fulfilled her dream in 1990, but with a fulltime job and three boys to raise, it was far from the stuff of the movies. “I had so many questions: Who is this horse and how can we get stuff done together?” she says. She soon learned that most of the suggestions inflicted pain on the horse: “Whips, bits, spurs … I thought, ‘There must be a better way!’”
Brewer discovered natural horsemanship at a trade show and it changed everything, including the direction of her life. “What I learned about interacting with my horse translated directly to my relationships with my boys and at work,” she says. In 2006, she studied at the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association and soon after co-founded In the Company of Horses on her farm in Pemberton. Instead of coercing through bribery and intimidation with a what’s-init- for-me attitude, she learned to interact with horses without pain, threat or bribes. Now, it’s what she teaches in her equine teambuilding and Empowering Leaders workshops. “People are predators and you can see their patterns right away by how they interact with the horses,” she explains. “What they learn by walking up to a herd of horses goes beyond the arena because they’re not just hearing it, they’re doing it.”
The two-day Empowering Leaders workshop helps participants “develop keen self awareness and lets them see who they are in a group and also as individuals,” Brewer explains. “It’s a way to learn, grow and experiment in a playful way.” As for Brewer, she’s constantly learning herself. “Horses can read intentions,” she says. “I’ll think I know how a participant is feeling, and the horse tells me otherwise.” Actions really are louder than words.