As training providers for the counselling and psychotherapy community, we are always interested in the work that is going on in the local community with regards to mental health and wellness. Sometimes, this work goes on in organisations which you maybe would not expect.  

Today, we are looking at Goxhill Meadows near Hornsea in East Yorkshire. They are well known as an eco-friendly glamping site, but there’s more to them than quirky glamping pods and short breaks. We spoke to CEO Jayne Haigh about her work and her inspiration to provide more than a traditional campsite.  

Hi Jayne, nice to meet you. Tell me about Goxhill Meadows and about Hearts and Minds 

The most memorable experiences in my lifetime have been in the outdoor environment, amongst nature and alongside animals, sometimes alone but more often than not sharing these life-enhancing experiences with other people. As human beings we are deeply connected to other animals (including other humans) and to our natural world. The mutually beneficial relationships that we create with the world around us have the capacity to ground us, support us and enrich our lives. It is this feeling of connection that we seek to facilitate and nurture for those who visit us here at Goxhill Meadows. In September 2020, I left behind a 20-year career in teaching and made the decision to follow my lifelong dream to use my smallholding as a nurturing environment where I could combine my passions for the great outdoors, the restorative nature of animals and working with children, young people and adults using a variety of animal-assisted learning and therapeutic sessions and also equine-facilitated learning, therapy and psychotraumatology. We have horses, Shetland ponies, alpacas, dogs, pygmy goats, chickens, Hebridean sheep and a feral cat! 

What is it that you love about animals? 

Animals see the real you; not the façade you put up in front of the world. Animals do not judge; they accept you for who you are and not who or what you are not. For animals, you are enough as you are. They offer empathy, love and also the opportunity for play and fun. They offer solace and an opportunity for connection and to develop relationships based on trust. On a deeper level, animals help us to tune into ourselves, to listen to our bodies (and not just our minds) and reflect deeply on our lived experience. My horses and ponies have been absolutely key in my life and their presence has helped me to navigate both calm and turbulent times. I could not be without them.  

What is Equine Facilitated Psychotraumatology? 

Equine Facilitated Psychotraumatology offers both a cognitive exercise and an experiential and embodied experience where clients can begin to safely tune into their autonomic nervous states, reshape their nervous system and rewrite their trauma stories that are carried in their autonomic pathways.  In EFPT both the therapist and the equine, through their interactions with the client, assist the client with the shaping and regulation of their ANS. Safety, containment, stabilisation and regulation are all absolutely critical in the EFPT process and can help to develop a client’s resilience to lead a fuller life.  

Horses are non-judgmental, accepting, trusting and authentic, and that, as a social species, they seek connection with others. They can provide exactly the sort of relationship and feedback which benefits trauma clients. By mindfully relating to a horse, troubled children or adults can learn the deep healing lesson of trust. 

In equine-facilitated psychotraumatology, interacting with horses helps clients explore their feelings. Keenly aware of emotional energies, horses sense what we’re feeling, sometimes better than we do. With a few well-chosen words and a forced smile, we may be able to hide our real feelings from another person. We may even hide our own deeper feelings from ourselves. But we cannot fool a horse. Horses can sense emotions that lurk beneath the surface of our awareness and mirror them back to us, showing us what we have been avoiding. Horses are always honest and present, responding openly without pretence. You know where you stand with a horse. 

What does a Typical Day Look like for you? 

I get up around 6.30am and check and feed all of the animals. A quick cup of tea is followed by mucking out, cleaning and ensuring all the animals are fit and well. Those that need exercising are exercised and turned out in fields, paddocks or in their enclosures depending upon who and what they are! We take clients throughout the day. Every client has a bespoke package that meets their needs which are honed to their desired outcomes. Some clients come to us for 6 weeks, others are with us for over a year. Every client is unique, as are our animals. Rest and breaks are important and all clients are offered a safe-space if they need a break – either for refreshments or for some space apart. Animals too have regular breaks and their own “safe-spaces”. When the last clients have left all animals are re-checked and fed, then left alone for some down-time. Final checks are at 10pm and then I can go to bed! The animals and I work with clients up to 4 days a week, with the remaining days off for the animals – but not always off for me!  

What do you enjoy most about your work? 

The old saying goes: “Never work with animals or kids” – I choose to work with both! Plus a few adults too. No day is ever the same, no human being is the same and for sure no animals are the same. I love working with unique individuals and equally unique animals, and facilitating interactions, connections and relationships between them. I feel blessed to work outdoors and lucky to have my beloved animals as an integral part of my life. To be able to share my love for the environment, for nature and for animals with others makes me happy beyond belief! 

What have you got planned for the future? 

I have just completed my Level 6 Diploma in Equine Facilitated Psychotraumatology and am now considering studying for a Masters Degree in this area. I am registered on the UK Register of the Human Equine Interaction Register (HEIR) and am listed in the SAFE Professionals Directory. My lifelong ambition has been to go on an a horseback safari in Botswana and I really hope to be able to do this within the next year or so. 

Thank you, Jayne! 

You can learn more about Jayne and her work at Goxhill Meadows Hearts and Minds