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Weyburn equine coach teaches life skills using horses

Handing the young teen girl a cup of hot tea, Tarryn McNaughton asked her to lead the horse, named “Bear”, around pylons set out in the indoor riding arena in a barrel-racing pattern without spilling any of the tea.

Handing the young teen girl a cup of hot tea, Tarryn McNaughton asked her to lead the horse, named “Bear”, around pylons set out in the indoor riding arena in a barrel-racing pattern without spilling any of the tea.

The first time around, the girl, named Jennika, spilled some tea as she led the horse around the three pylons set out, but the second time around she was more sure of herself and didn’t spill any, and it was easier for her in leading the horse.

In this quiet way, Tarryn saw a connection develop between Bear and Jennika as she did various fun exercises — and this was exactly what she was aiming for.

Tarryn, born and raised on a cattle and sheep farm just east of Weyburn, has started up her own venture called Broken Diamond Equine, and hopes to pass on life lessons of this sort to children this summer at her parents farm.

Explaining the turns her life has taken, Tarryn said, “I worked in oil and gas reclamation after completing a Geology and Geography degree from the University of Regina. In the fall of 2019 I was certified in Equine Assisted Learning by EAL Canada at Millarville, Alta., and have since enjoyed spending more of my time bringing horses and humans together. I worked at Living Hope Ranch in Maple Creek as an equine team member, and taught with Kyra Londos Training Stables in Kelowna, B.C.”

Working with horses was a return to what she grew up with, she noted, as she grew up riding horses working with the cattle on her family’s farm, and getting into barrel racing.

With Broken Diamond Equine, she uses horses as a form of assisted learning to help those who may need to get through a traumatic life experience, or who are getting over something in their past, helping them to feel more comfortable with themselves, or about what choices they are making in life or for their future.

“I’m not a therapist, but it’s more about being a coach and facilitator, with the goal to provide kids or adults, or families, some personal skills and communication skills,” said Tarryn, adding she isn’t offering riding lessons as such, but riding a horse is an option at a session if a person would like to.

“People don’t have to have much experience with horses. For some, this could be their first time to be with a horse,” she added.

Over the May long weekend, she held a “Unicorn Camp” for children up to age 14, and had the participants do some activities with a horse, like Jennika did, in the riding arena.

“It’s not geared towards any one type of person, it’s for any background, girls or boys might just want to learn more team-building,” said Tarryn, noting the team-building can also work for a family or for a business, youth group or organization.

When she took the training in assisted learning in Millarville, she learned about how horses act as a herd and act with people, how they communicate, and the effect horses have on people.

“As coaches, we take that information and watch how they interact, horses and humans. If the horse is acting really intense, then what are you feeling right now? They need that calm feeling, that’s what they look for,” said Tarryn.

“Horses have a big energy field, an aura about them, and it’s useful. There’s also dog therapy, right, and animal therapy, but horses have such a big energy about them they’re able to influence a human a lot. Their heartbeat is slower, so then it draws our heartbeat slower. So just using that calming influence of a horse in a high-energy child or someone with a traumatic background … a person needs relief from the stresses of COVID or from town, something to get away and be calm, like going outside for a walk, except with a horse,” explained Tarryn.

For the most part, her camps will be based at her parents farm, but she noted she is movable, and can come out to a camp or to meet a group at another location to hold some sessions with them, like for a day of team-building or to work with a youth group for the day.

“It’s another way to develop life skills, cause you can have other camps, other exercises, this just adds a horse part to it,” she added.

One option also is if a day with her horse helps a high-energy child or a child with ADHD, they could come back once a week or once a month for additional sessions if that helps them in their lives, she said.

“After coming for a few sessions, when they go back to their family life they can notice a big difference, like how they act, cause you teach them some skills. When they start to feel anxious, they can think of that skill and calm down, so there’s lots of change in that. If you did that weekly, they can learn that process,” said Tarryn.

At this point, she is looking mainly to work with children, although there have been some inquiries about doing a ladies night also, and she is hoping to organize some of those events.

She can be messaged through her Broken Diamond Equine Facebook page, or by email to if there are inquiries about enrolling in a session with her and her horses.