Kids learn the Magic words for wellness


Teachers Magic, Yoshi and Muzz have been giving kids a unique insight into staying calm and dealing with challenges.

Magic and Yoshi are former racehorses and Muzz an elder statesman of the herd who, along with other paddock pals, are teaching Capel Primary School students what it means to ‘get back to grazing.’

Sophia, aged 10, explained horses graze when they are happy and relaxed – and the new Horse Sense wellness program supported by the Off the Track WA Community Fund was helping her feel the same way.

Local school teacher and equine learning practitioner Claire Wright has been introducing Sophia and classmates Trav, Tyler and Isla to a different theme each week: Calming, awareness, thinking, boundaries, relationships, feelings and challenges.

Claire and the group work through a task

The final theme of challenges started with the kids putting a halter and lead rope together, matching it to the right horse and swapping or sharing pieces to complete the task successfully.

With Claire, they talked about having a go, seeking and offering support and using ‘out breaths’ to settle themselves if they felt stressed.

“Out breaths help horses relax, like a sigh,” Sophia said.

The group then went out to the paddock, moving through the herd, noticing the body language of the horses and respecting their boundaries.


Tyler was drawn to Muzz, stroking his nose and picking pieces of hay from his long, black mane but said his favourite was Magic.

“I liked Magic from the first day. He was the first one I saw and he just came up to me,” he said.

“He’s one of the friendliest. He’s magical and good stuff happens around him.

“There are a lot of horses and we take care of them and they take care of us. My favourite thing has been spending time with the horses and feeling like I’m free.”

Moving on to Magic and Yoshi waiting in the arena, each child was asked to create their own challenge.

Using poles, barrels, traffic cones, hoops and wooden blocks they had marked with feelings such as ‘fear’ or ‘happiness’ the week before, each student created an obstacle course and led a horse through it.

“The idea is to acknowledge and express their feelings, to understand them and move forward through the challenges,” Claire said.

Isla chose Yoshi as her favourite to share the task.

“He’s sleepy and cuddly. I’ve been learning to control my fears and overcome things I’m scared of,” she said.

“It’s really amazing, actually.”

Related: Former racehorses help kids learn Horse Sense

Claire said feedback from the school and parents showed the students were adopting the key words of the program and relating them more widely to their behaviour.

“We just started doing school groups this term and it’s been fantastic. It’s a wellness program to teach children about dealing with life and challenges,” she said.

“It helps with emotional regulation, self awareness and the sensory input from the horses helps to provide nurturing experiences.

“We work on coping strategies, being aware of how they feel and think, how to work through challenges, how to build relationships.

“The horses are good at regulating themselves. The dynamics of the herd are very structured, they have very clear strategies for working through big feelings so when we watch them and are aware of how they do that, the children can see it and work through those experiences and learn from them.

“Rather than just talking about it, it’s actually being involved in the experience as it happens.

“It’s been incredible. We’ve seen increased self confidence, self awareness, ability to regulate, being comfortable with the horses and interpreting the horse’s body language.

“There’s no other place where people can hug their therapist.”

Susan de Ruyter

Related: Off the Track WA Community Fund