How to Choose the Right EAL Certification For YOU

Equine Assisted Learning is a growing industry that is opening many career opportunities to help others through horses. There are many EAL Certifications available, each with their own approach and standards of practice. The fact is there are a lot of people doing great work in this field! So it is important to take the time to do your research and find the one that is right for you. One that enables you to achieve your career goals and serve the clients you want to serve.

When I was researching which certification I wanted to pursue when opening Dreamwinds, there were a number of factors that came into consideration. Time and of course cost were obvious considerations. Having completed a master’s degree and various certifications during my corporate career, I wasn’t looking to enroll in program that would take months or years to complete.

But as I looked back, there were 12 key areas that weighed heavily in my decision to choose Cartier Farms for my EAL Certification.  I hope the following checklist will help you evaluate the various options to find the right path for your own EAL career!

1. Program History
How long has the company been in place, offering EAL certification and services?  How successful are they?

2. Validity
Does the company have any third-party research to validate its effectiveness? Are they able to provide graduate success stories from people they have trained? If you merely want to obtain certification to expand your knowledge, that is fine, but if you want to build a business, you need to know that it is feasible.

3. Suitability to your customers
Will your customers buy it? This is critical. It is important to understand whether the program will appeal to your market. Some certifications offer an intuitive or spiritual approach, some are strictly therapeutic and others, like Cartier, take on a logical/objective-based approach. What would your customers want?

4. Flexibility
What you wish to do at first may not remain your passion forever. You may discover other areas of interest or market opportunities. When I was looking for a certification, all I wanted to do was corporate team building. But, as my business grew, I realized that more people needed my help and the opportunities were endless. Thankfully, I was equipped for that through my certification. Flexibility enables you to grow your business in more than one area and create multiple income streams from your EAL certification.

5. Inclusions
Each program has its own package, which could include literature, classroom time, time spent with the horses, hands on facilitation and so on. Some programs offer a few hours of classroom time and a certificate, while others have apprenticeships, tools, and more. Be sure to get a clear understanding of what you’ll receive with your certification and assess what the value is to you.

6. Time commitment
How much time do you have available to devote to learning about EAL? Choose a course that is sustainable and can fit into your lifestyle.

7. Re-certification
Some courses will require re-certification, logging of hours or further investment to retain your EAL Certification. Be sure to understand what is required by each of the schools you consider.

8. Operating restrictions
Operating restrictions may apply if you want to maintain your certification and keep it valid. In some cases, you may only work with people who have also been certified by the same program. Consider how these operating restrictions will affect you not only now, but also in the future.

9. Current Operations
Do they actively practice, or merely offer training? Do your research and see whether the company offers many services other than just training and certification. Their social media profiles should provide you with great insights. You want to learn from a company that offers more than just certification. Be sure you are learning from someone who has built an EAL career and business running actual programs, not just teaching certification.

10. Apprenticeship Opportunities
While most programs offer a hands-on component, some provide the opportunity to apprentice. Being able to do an apprenticeship helps ensure that you are confident in your training, which enhances your level of success.

11. Continuing Education
Advanced EAL Certification will be important for many people, but it may not be a priority for others. If it’s important to you, be sure to find out that it is available.

12. Ongoing support
Finally, does the company offer ongoing support after you have been certified? Is there coaching available and at what cost? Do they have a strong community of alumni that supports one another? Having the support of those who have been where you are and share your passion is a huge help as you grow your career/business.

This is an exciting time to embarking on a career in EAL! It is a growing industry offering wonderful and diverse opportunities to turn your passion for horses into a fulfilling career. Take the time to understand what education options are available, who is doing the kind of work you want to do and succeeding at it and most importantly what will be the best fit for you and the clients you want to serve. As you navigate your way, I am pleased to be a resource and welcome you to connect with me for more information or to schedule a free consultation at Enjoy the journey!

Download your free copy of the checklist here!


A Day in The Life

Someone asked me recently, what is life like as a Certified EAL Facilitator?
What does a typical day look like?
I honestly struggled to define a “typical day”!   As I tried to answer, I started to reflect on just how remarkably different my life is today than just 5 years ago.  And it’s in that contrast that it all became more clear.

In 2012 we had recently purchased our farm, built our facility and welcomed our horses home.  As if that wasn’t enough, I left my role as VP of Merchant Marketing for American Express and ventured into the world of EAL.   It was a big year to say the least and created a lifestyle change that I could never have imagined!

As a marketing executive at Amex, I would commute to the city, spend my days in meetings, leading my team and developing marketing strategies to drive people to use their Amex card.  I did this day in and day out in some capacity for 9 years.  That was a typical day.

Fast forward to today, I’m running my own EAL business.  On any given day you might find me in the barn working my horses, in the arena working with clients, out at networking events or in my office planning a session, working on business development, or doing the ever popular admin tasks.  In and around that I will tour my property, feed the chickens, play with my dogs or meet a friend for lunch.  And like any career, some days are better than others and I might be spending my day balancing my finances, filling a job position, fixing fences, cleaning stalls or walking out a sick horse and waiting for the vet. There simply is no typical day.  And while my routine is anything but routine, there are a few key constants that stand true each and every single day:

  • I wake up every single day excited about what’s ahead!  I may not know for sure, it may not be what I had originally planned, but it is always invigorating and still on my terms.
  • I feel empowered!  Meetings don’t run my day anymore, I get to CHOOSE.   As busy as any given day is, there is a boat load of FREEDOM in that!
  • I get to change lives.  Whether it’s a corporate team member, a person overcoming a fear or a new certification student who is just venturing into this amazing career themselves.  My horses, my programs and I are making a difference.
  • And ultimately…the reason most of us consider a career in EAL…I am surrounded by my horses.   Not a day goes by I don’t get to interact, teach and learn with my horses.  Now that may be because I’m fixing a fence or the waterer is on the fritz, but any time spent with horses is time well spent in my book!


So I guess you could say I have a not so typical, typical day.   And I personally wouldn’t have it any other way.



To find out how you can enjoy this not so typical career, visit 

How to Create the Perfect Team

How to Create the Perfect Team

teamworkThe elusive “perfect team”, does is even exist?  Perhaps not, but there are definitely teams that consistently out perform and come really close.  What makes them different?

We see organizations investing in Management courses which can be valuable, in that they teach us how to create the perfect team, yet, many individuals in corporate teams feel a lack of connection. Unfortunately, when an employee feels disconnected or undervalued, they will underperform or lack loyalty – two crucial aspects of a productive, high performing team. Perhaps it is time to go back to the drawing boards to assess what we have known for many years, and look for the missing element.

Google did a two-year long study following 180 teams, and found five aspects that – according to them – created a well-functioning, successful team:

  1. Dependability
  2. Structure and clarity
  3. Meaning
  4. Impact
  5. and Psychological safety

None of this is really news. In fact, I would argue what really makes a perfect team, lies a layer below these findings. Of course a leader should encourage ideas, and it’s common sense that a high performing team would consist of dependable team members. But what lies beneath the surface? What helps those team members to become dependable?

Perfect Teams Share an Emotional Connection

When managers help to connect and bond teams and encourage personal relationships, the team becomes invested in the success of each individual and in that of the team. This accounts for dependability.

So how does one create dependability within a team? As the Google study suggests, it comes from a place of psychological safety. Sadly, one poor manager can destroy psychological safety and it takes more than one great manager to create it.

What is Dependability?

When a person does their job for fear of losing it, they are dependable. A person who does their job to be rewarded with achievement or recognition, is also fairly dependable. However, it takes more than a group of fearful and ambitious people to create a high-performing team.

The employees in the example above are egocentrically focused, which means that they will ultimately act in their own best interest. They will do what they can to present themselves in the best light possible, which might negatively impact the overall performance goal.  I’m sure we all know that one teammate that would happily ‘throw us under the bus’ to make themselves look good.

However, positively dependent teams have understanding and empathy for one another. Individuals are much more inclined to step in to help struggling team members. Not only do they care about the performance goal, but they truly want to support their teammate through a tough time. This is the kind of dependability a manager can count on within the perfect team.

Dependability & Psychological Safety in the Workplace

In the article on Google’s research, author Michael Schneider also merely scrapes the surface in his definition of psychological safety when he writes, ” A situation in which everyone is safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgment-free questions. A culture where managers provide air cover and create safe zones so employees can let down their guard. That’s psychological safety.”

Psychological safety should be encouraged by the management, indeed, but a fantastic manager cannot carry the can alone.

People certainly care about their boss’ perceptions of them, but they also don’t want to be judged by their peers. Therefore, it is important for managers to create a culture of openness and non-judgmental sharing. Creating emotional connections and strong team bonds is what will make the biggest difference in creating a culture of psychological safety.

Authentic team relationships can change the work environment from one of every-man-for-himself to an all-for-one-and-one-for-all mentality. When co-workers view the team as friends, their ideas are supported with people they trust – people who will support them, rather than look for ways to one-up or tear them down.

Building the Perfect Team: The Crux

By embracing the idea that the best teams are not about all work and no play, managers can transform the company culture and optimize returns on investment. For a brief moment, set aside the objectives and performance goals, and focus on the people – both the team and the individuals.

Invest in providing opportunities for teams to be vulnerable, have fun, and get to know one another on a deeper level.   That investment will pay dividends by delivering a team that is committed to each other, the organization, and the goal.  You’ll not only see improvements in performance, but also a significant reduction in staff turnover and both of those metrics are money in the bank.

LeadershipHere at Dreamwinds, we provide equine assisted learning, which has been proven to forge deeper connections and improved communication within teams.

We encourage corporate team managers and leaders to choose an off-site event that isn’t just about play, but is structured in a way that expands thinking, encourages self-reflection and provides an opportunity for team members to gain an understanding of each other – how they tick, communication styles etc.  With understanding comes connection and that’s what really sets us apart.  Our objective based exercises are structured to bring out these traits and lessons in a fun and engaging way.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about our team building and youth leadership programmes, or find out how you can become a Certified EAL Facilitator.


virtual distributed teams

Distributed Virtual Teams – Team Connections

Creating Real Team Connections in a Virtual World

A study by Flexjobs found that remote job advertising increased by 52% in the last two years, which signals strong, sustained growth in opportunities for people who wish to telecommute, and for companies looking to reduce costs and the environmental impact of commuting, and increase productivity and staff morale. One of the main reasons why companies choose to outsource, is that it enables them to retain the best talent from around the globe.

Proactive Team Building for Distributed Teams

The one downside to distributed teams, is the fact that there may be less of a personal connection between team members. Virtual communication has been shown to result in miscommunication, which may result in members dropping the ball. A lack of engagement can translate into major issues for a remote team.

When people like, personally know, and trust other team members, they are more likely to work together more collaboratively to ensure the success of both team and individual.

As the leader of an organization built on a remote team, it is crucial to remain cognizant of the pitfalls of ignoring personal engagement between team members. You can ensure effective working relationships by proactively creating opportunities for your employees to connect in person. Do this by booking a team building program that focuses on:

  • Building communication skills
  • Understanding individual communication styles
  • Group problem solving
  • Leadership development
  • And camaraderie.

Personal connections, shared experiences and real skill building will ensure remote teams stay committed, engaged and perform at their best to deliver bottom line results to their organizations.

Get in touch with Dreamwinds today to learn more about our program, which will help you build a formidable remote team.

Other Related Page: Corporate Team Building



Horse Day @Dreamwinds


Saturday, June 4th, 2016  11am – 5pm

Horse Day BannerPlans for the 3rd Annual Horse Day @Dreamwinds are coming together!   We have an amazing line up of horse and rider demonstrations that are not to be missed!

Last year we had nearly 600 people join us to learn about all things horse! We hope to double that this year and have added some great new demonstrations and activities to make it an even better way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

RIDER DEMOS (Every hour on the :30):

  • Show Jumping – Miguel Elciguary
  • Dressage – Abby Simbrow
  • Western – Bilby Ranch
  • Saddle Seat – Kim Blease
  • Polo – Brian O’Leary
  • Gaited – Tina Hurd

BREED DEMOS (Top of every hour):

  • Clydesdale
  • Thoroughbred
  • Hanoverian
  • Spotted Saddle Horse & Tennessee Walking Horse
  • Friesian & Saddlebred
  • Quarter Horse
  • And of course…Donkey!

Don’t forget our Charity BBQ, Face Painting and the opportunity to experience our awesome Equine Assisted Learning Program!

This is a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with our horses. Learn about their behaviour, their care and the differences between the breeds and various riding disciplines.  In our arena you can take the lead and experience our EAL program.  Learning to lead a horse and gain their trust and cooperation hones the same skills needed to build strong relationships and work effectively with people!  Our horses are gentle teachers, always happy to impart their wisdom!

Of course you’ll have a chance to meet our famous Clydesdale, Jimmy and Facebook star Benson the donkey!

Net proceeds from the event go to The Terry Fox Foundation to support important Cancer research.

It’s an amazing day for all ages!  Don’t miss it!

check out our exciting schedule:

Demo schedule sign




2016 Clydesdale Superbowl Commercial

Every year we have a little fun here at Dreamwinds and amp up our efforts to make Jimmy famous!   As a huge fan of the Budweiser Clydesdales, I anxiously await the release of their annual Superbowl video so when Jimmy joined our Dreamwinds team 3 years ago, we decided he needed to have his own claim to fame!

This year, we had the distinct pleasure of working with Richard Yagutilov World Class Video & Photography.   He really outdid himself for is no small feat working with animals and hoping they will follow the script!  Hope you enjoy our 2016 Clydesdale Superbowl Commercial!

If you like it, please share!   We would love to see Jimmy’s video tour the world!


A Tail of Hope…

I have always believed animals have so much to teach us.  It’s why I chose the profession I’m in of course.  But I am still sometimes amazed at how it can transpire.   This week was no exception and this is a little off the beaten path for a Dreamwinds post to be honest.  But I’m compelled to write about it because it has had such an impact on my entire week.   It’s about a dog…

For those who don’t know, in addition to my horse “addiction”, I also have a profound love for Shelties (Shetland Sheepdogs).   They are extremely intelligent, like little furry humans…only possibly smarter. 🙂   I do a lot of business through social media, but I also connect with friends and occasionally feed my Sheltie obsession through a FB page called Sheltie Owners.   It is a group of about 10K people who share my love for the breed and pepper my newsfeed with beautiful photos and stories of their gorgeous pups.   There is one particular member, Kathy, who would share the antics of her sable sheltie, Agnus Ann every day…sometimes twice a day.  She had a deep love and connection with Agnus Ann and you couldn’t help but stop to read about their adventures and smile.


This week, I saw the post from Kathy sharing that Agnus Ann had been struck by a car and killed instantly while she walked her on a leash.  Group members share their losses daily on this page and the group shares their grief.  This was nothing new.  But when I read this post, I’ll admit I actually cried.   I cried for the loss of a beautiful dog with a big personality and I cried for the incredible pain that I could only imagine Kathy must be experiencing.   And I was taken aback by this to be honest.   I’ve always been a bit of a softy, but here I was heartbroken over a dog and an owner whom I had never met.

What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary…my newsfeed lit up.  Every single post that evening was people expressing the same deep sadness that I had experienced.  People from all over the world, who had enjoyed following the adventures of Agnus Ann, poured in their condolences, started Go Fund Me accounts, a Tribute Page and donated to rescues…all in the name of this sweet little dog and her owner.  All desperate to do something, anything to ease the pain of someone most knew only through the internet.  What had started as so heart-wrenching, suddenly became incredibly heartwarming.

Within 24 hours, what seemed like thousands of people from around the world, of different faith, race, religion and political views united for the love of a dog and her devastated owner.   They united with a common goal to ease suffering, to bring some light into a darkened world.   And I was struck by it.  Struck by what could happen when people put aside their differences.  Struck by the idea that this little fluffy dog could open so many hearts in a time when world events are closing so many minds.

And it gave me hope and I just had to share…

R.I.P. Agnus Ann xo


Be Your Own Great Leader…

We had another inspiring and empowering Ladies Night! I may be here to teach, but I am always amazed at how much I learn. Tonight our exercise focused on leading through uncertainty. We partnered the ladies up and had them lead each other blindfolded through a number of obstacles.  We discussed what we look for in a leader in general and what the most important traits are during uncertain times.


Our horses didn’t disappoint as they guided the learning and inspired new thinking.  Just like us, in the absence of good leadership they can get distracted , they question authority and sometimes just disengage all together.   The ladies shared what they learned about their expectations of a great leader…be positive, have confidence, be a cheerleader, have a vision/plan and be trustworthy.   All definitely great attributes to get the best out of your team.   I then challenged them to think about how they activate those traits within themselves when faced with uncertainty.  An interesting thought.  Many had plenty of examples of how they don’t…me included.   Negative self-talk, lack of confidence, unsure of what to do next and how to focus.   Sound a little familiar? Funny how we expect so much of others and so little of ourselves at times.

We all need to be our own great leader everyday and especially in times of uncertainty. What we say to ourselves, expect of ourselves and challenge ourselves to do and be will make or break us. So when the going gets tough – be positive, have confidence, be your own biggest fan, remind yourself of your vision and put a plan in place.  Then most importantly put some trust in you and leaIMG_0115d on…

Tell me…When faced with uncertainty, how do you lead yourself through it?  Are you your own great leader?  

Thank you ladies for a wonderful evening! I think that is the sun setting on our negative self-talk in the background!  Can’t wait until next month! 🙂


Horse Lessons: It’s Actually About You…

At first glance most people look at Dreamwinds and categorize us in “The Horse Business”.   It’s an interested conundrum really.   There is no doubt there would be no Dreamwinds, no Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) Centre, without my amazing horses.   I can’t argue with that.   But I’m here to tell you…it’s actually not about them.  It’s about you.

I was reminded of this today as I took Play-Doh out for a trail ride alone.   It was a gorgeous day out and I needed some time to think…to prepare for a presentation I have to make tonight that was in need of a “Plan B” approach.   We had been out cantering our own field last night and I thought it would be good for the two of us to venture over to the neighbours…farther from home…farther from Play-Doh’s herd.    For a lot of horses this can be too much to bare, too stressful…often terrifying it would seem.   But Play-Doh took it all in stride…trusting me every step of the way.   And for a moment I thought… “wow how far he has come.   He’s changed so much and we’re finally coming together as a team.”   I can tell you, and anyone who knows us can attest, we have come FAR.   But as I look back on the 4 years of our partnership…it’s clear.   It was me who had to change, not Play-Doh.

Horses are pretty simple…they react.   Whatever a horse is doing in our presence, chances are it’s merely a reaction to who we are, what we are feeling, doing or thinking at the time.  For Play-Doh to be better, first I needed to be better and not just a better rider…a better partner.

I brought Play-Doh home in 2010 from a short, lackluster career at Woodbine.  He was 2.5 years old and a clean slate.   Nothing to fix, minimal baggage, he would be all mine to make into something special and I was up for the task.   But he had a lot to live up to…after all, I already had the perfect horse in Oliver.   And that’s how it started.   I’m ashamed to say that for the first few years I compared him to the ‘good son’.   In my defence, he was ROTTEN to work with on the ground.  Constantly testing and kicking…nothing like his brother Oliver who would never dream of putting a foot wrong.   He was a bit lazy to ride and lots of work to motivate…nothing like his brother Oliver who was responsive and so keen to please.   Whenever we were together, I was subconsciously (and occasionally consciously) setting out to “fix him” and turn him into Oliver.   Are you seeing the problem here?    How often do we do this with people?   Holding our employees, partners and children up to impossible standards and setting about to “fix them”.   Expecting them to fit into our definition of “the norm” and when they don’t, getting frustrated or worse, giving up.   I almost gave up.   Maybe we just weren’t a good match, I thought.   I have to admit, the dreaded words “For Sale” even crossed my lips more than once.  And I’m sure that he knew it.

When I was made aware of how I was projecting onto Play-Doh about a year and a half ago and realizing how unfair I was being, I first thought…I knew better!  I was ashamed that my goals and expectations had somehow clouded the journey.   But more importantly, I listened and I learned and I made a conscious effort to try to ‘understand him’.   Turns out he has quite a sense of humour…he just sometimes thinks he’s funnier than the rest of us do!   As I stopped comparing him to Oliver, started to laugh more at his antics and appreciate the things he did well, things started to change radically.  So radically, we can now venture on long trail rides alone.  So radically, he now stands calmly in the cross ties.   So radically, we are now a team in the jumper ring and for the first time in my life I’m actually enjoying horse shows.  He was just reacting to me all along.   It was my mindset that had to change, not Play-Doh.

While this was a ‘louder’ lesson learned over time, this is the basis of EAL…it’s about creating self awareness and ultimately change in people using the reactive nature of the horse.   How they react to our communication, our moods, attitudes, thoughts and behaviours helps us understand ourselves and learn how to be better…better leaders, better parents, better partners…better people.    They are more than willing to teach, we just have to be willing to listen.

To Play-Doh – Sorry it took me so long to hear you.  Love you buddy. xo




Life lessons from a simple photo shoot…

Have you ever had “one of those days”?    I thought I had one recently…Dreamwinds Photo Day 2015.   It was a hot and sunny day and we had hired our favourite photographer to come shoot some photos of our farm, our horses and our family.   I was looking to grow our gallery for our business posts and website and had some specific thoughts in mind on what I wanted to get out of the session.   I had visions of gallery quality shots of my magestic horses running freely with their manes and tails flowing, but I was also excited to capture that “perfect family photo”.   You know the one…where everyone is posed perfectly, looking perfectly un-posed and natural with a soft background and perhaps a light wind in our hair.  Is that so much to ask?

Well it seemed my subjects had other ideas and as the day went on, while we were having lots of fun, my dreams of the perfect shot were fading. The type A in me could not believe that my horses & dogs couldn’t hold it together long enough for one decent shot!   Then I got the photos back…and I was reminded of a few valuable life lessons:

  1. “Imperfection is beauty.  Madness is genius and it is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.’ – Marilyn Monroe
    Thank you Marilyn.  In this attempt at our first family shot with Dirk and my 3 geldings, it all goes awry as the horses break formation and squeeze in.   I am reminded here that we are actually often ridiculous, rarely boring and, let’s be honest, never perfect no matter how hard we try…and that’s ok.CAP_5203


  2. “You can’t control everything.  Sometimes you just need to relax and have faith that things will work out.  Let go a little and just let life happen.” – Kody Keplinger
    For me, this photo is what it’s all about.   That horse-human connection.   You just don’t get that from a posed portrait shot and had I not let go of the reins so to speak and allowed this moment to transpire, I may have missed the point all together.CAP_5213 copy 2


  3. ‘Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken” – Oscar Wilde
    This is Play-Doh…for real.  We gave him the show name “Play of the Day” because he was forever doing something memorable and goofy.   Somehow after seeing this, the glamour shot wouldn’t have seemed right anyway.  Our authentic self is always our best self.CAP_3825 copy 3


  4. “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need’. – The Rolling Stones
    There is no getting around it, labour of love or not, work on the farm can be hard and tiring.  And I’ll admit, it can be made harder and more tiring by my constant pursuit of perfection.   Frankly, I needed this photo.   It makes me smile and somehow allows me to exhale.CAP_5189


So we may not be appearing on the front cover of Vanity Fair anytime soon, but there is no doubt in my mind that I got my perfect family photo and some gentle reminders that I wanted to share.  When all is said and done, we shouldn’t be so concerned about what should be that we forget to fully appreciate what is.  There was no doubt about it as I looked through the photos…this is my life and my crazy family and I wouldn’t have it any other way!   Captured perfectly. 🙂

photo credit: CAP Photographic Solutions