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Animal & Equine Facilitated Mindfulness

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Pairing animal/equine facilitated experiential learning with mindfulness training provides adults with a unique opportunity to not only develop their emotional regulation skills but also form deep bonds of friendship with horses/ponies or other farm animal partners and human group members.  Due to the calm steadfast nature of the horses in the program and their ability to “mirror a child’s emotions”, participants can learn how to process difficult emotions through purposeful, guided interaction with these noble teachers. Smaller farm animals like rabbits, goats and chickens provide a chance for children to learn impulse control and develop their capacity for empathy and compassion.



Coming Soon

Fall Retreat

3 Hour Session


Yoga With Horses

1 Hour Session


          An opportunity to interact with horses individually and in a group setting

          Sensory Activities to draw awareness to the present moment and create calm

          Guided Meditations and Relaxations

           Journalling and Reflection Time

           Group Challenges with and without horses



Interacting with horses requires a person to be present.  Horses reflect the emotions that a person is "living" in the moment.  This provides a unique opportunity to become more aware. When tackling group challenges with equine and human friends, participants practice problem-solving tasks, in the moment, in ways that often trigger introspection, self-awareness and insight.  This intentional practice overtime cultivates self-esteem, confidence and team building skills while providing them with valuable strategies to dissipate anger, anxiety and other difficult emotions.

  •  Improved focus and concentration

  •  Increased self awareness, self acceptance and confidence

  •  Decreased anxiety and stress

  •  Enhanced physical, social and emotional self regulation skills

  •  Attuned communication skills

  •  Enriched ability to identify and shift challenging emotions

  •  Reduced fear and improved quality of sleep




Many people have experienced emotional challenges as a result of the pandemic and everyday life situations.  Forced isolation and extended time away from family and friends has created unfortunate consequences. As a result, many suffer from:

·      Lack of Focus and Concentration

·      Anxiety

·      Mood swings

·      Increased aggression

·      Depression

·      Sleep problems

·      Feelings of disconnect

Research states and past programs at Circle R Ranch have shown that Animal/Equine Facilitated mindfulness training positively impacts these challenges. 


Integrating purposeful and intentional Mindfulness training with effective Animal/Equine Facilitated Learning provides a highly valuable opportunity for adults to develop a wide range of social emotional regulation skills that reduce challenging negative emotions. No previous horse experience necessary. All activities are done on the ground. 


The Basic Elements Of Mindfulness Training Includes:

·      Mindful Movement and Yoga with horses/farm animals

·      Breathing techniques

·      Sensory Awareness 

·      Visualization and Relaxation exercises

·      “Heartfulness” practices that include gratitude work and loving kindness meditations

·      Mindful Art and Tool Creation


The Basic Elements Of Animal & Equine Facilitated Learning Create A Unique Bond With An Animal Through:

·      Sensory walks

·      Grooming

·      Buddy breathing

·      Individualized and group challenges (include tackling obstacle courses with equine partners)


The Animal/Equine Facilitated Mindfulness programs delivered in the extraordinary setting of Circle R Ranch provide a unique opportunity for learning that is not found anywhere else. 

Power of the Herd

The Circle R Ranch herd of typically around 40 horses living together in a picturesque setting provides a rare opportunity to witness the highest levels of equine connection and community.  This natural and unique atmosphere offers not only the physical benefits of instilling a sense of safety and security in the horses but also supports their social and emotional well-being through their shared companionship.  Horses are simply happier and healthier when they live together.

During “Mindful Herd Gazing and Listening” which is an integral part of each session, children, teens and adults can watch the horses play, nap, graze, groom one another and model valuable social skills and friendship.   Participants also have the chance to learn how a horse communicates a range of emotions through its behaviours in this natural environment. A horse’s responses to human interaction provide a rare opportunity for self-reflection and inner growth. The Circle R herd’s highly developed awareness and noble sensitivity create a shared consciousness with those who are lucky enough to be in their presence.

The Horses

Horses, by their very nature, are mindful. Their temperament is gentle and sensitive.  The horses at Circle R Ranch have spent endless hours providing educational and recreational opportunities for people of all ages. Thousands of children, teens and adults have benefited from their calm and peaceful dispositions.  Their quiet and steadfast nature continues to inspire growth and connection with everyone who meets them.

The Farm Animals

Due to their unique characteristics, farm animals provide an opportunity for children to culture present moment awareness and as a result deepen different positive qualities in themselves.  For example, rabbits can teach children impulse control through cultivating the power of stillness. Goats, through their humorous antics can teach children about the power of humour and the ability to let go of challenging emotions. Each carefully planned activity with the farm animals fosters connection and social emotional growth.


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The Facilitators: Joan Russell and Sherry-Lynne Kirschner have shared mutual respect, a special friendship and a passion for their work with children, teen and animals for many years.  They feel deeply grateful to be able to work together with the support staff to deliver this unique program that they created to children and teens. 

Joan Russell: Joan has been involved in outdoor education and camp for over 45 years, graduating with honours in Equine Specialist Humber College.  Titles have included Equine Director, Program Director, Camp Director, Marketing and Promotions Manager, Education Mentor, and overseer of all operations.

As the Equine Director, Joan takes the lead in the horse program, managing the care and health of the horses.  Joan loves working with, being with, looking after the herd.  She is passionate about the positive impact of a horse experience, in a child’s or adults’ life and the importance of being a lifelong learner. She is also aware of the beautiful personal growth the majestic horses create within oneself. Joan is always looking for new and interactive ways to engage individual growth, team building, and a sense of belonging through being part of a community that promotes a safe, creative and inclusive environment for children, adults and staff.  Joan is First Aid and CPR qualified.

Completing Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training, mindfulness workshops and retreats including,   Self-Compassion Mindfulness Training, has deepened her knowledge, awareness and personal mindfulness practice.   She is able to use her mindfulness skills and integrate the power of horses and animals to culture presence, empathy and compassion in children, teens and adults. 

Joan is honoured and so excited to partner with Sherry-Lynne, the horses, and the Circle R team to facilitate the first ‘official’ Animal Mindfulness Programs. 

Sherry-Lynne Kirschner B.A., B.Ed, RYT, Mindfulness Educator, Children’s Book Author, Animal Facilitated Mindfulness Teacher:


Sherry-Lynne Kirschner has spent over 30 years of her life being awed and inspired by the wisdom of children globally.  As an elementary teacher, outdoor education leadership centre/summer camp owner and yoga/mindfulness educator, she has focused her professional life on teaching children to love, honour and accept themselves.  Sherry-Lynne taught in the elementary school system for 30 years working with children from JK to grade 12 to help them develop emotional self-regulation skills.   She is the founder of MindfulMe, which is an organization that focuses on sharing the benefits of mindfulness practices with children, teenagers, parents and teachers internationally.  She is inspired by the unique connections and present moment awareness that integrating mindfulness practices with animals create. She is thrilled and deeply honoured to be part of the team at Circle R Ranch to facilitate Animal Mindfulness Programs to teens, adults and children of all ages.


The Support Staff: The Animal/Equine facilitated Mindfulness programs at Circle R Ranch are supported by highly skilled and experienced staff members from a wide range of backgrounds.  Elementary Educators, Psychologists, Therapists, Outdoor Education leaders, Education students, Mindfulness teachers, Equine specialists, and Camp Counsellors form the team that assists and enriches the overall experience for the children and teens in the program.  The participants and program deeply benefits from their presence, wisdom and expertise.

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