“The lightning bugs at twilight softly glow in the night, providing glimpses into the wonders of the world. In the early eve, your eyes’ mind knows how to connect the dots between the darkness and the light. See the pathway before you.

So too can you apply this to your dreams and hopes. Envision the goals and desired outcomes – seeking the light that shines, glimpses of direction and clarity. Understand that you may not see that which is not lit, but trust in the journey.

Carefully draw in the invisible lines with your mind until you can see the full picture. Put in place all that you hope for, dream for and desire – and breathe belief into that vision. For it is yours to define.”

Whoa! Pretty intense, right?

That was the message on one of the cards I pulled at the very beginning of my session with Marlene Armstrong and Maureen Donoghue of Unbridled Coaching, which is life coaching with a bit of a twist. The twist is that the coaching is done with horses, referred to as Equus Coaching. “It combines traditional life coaching methods with the intuitive nature of horses.”

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was to learn more about this. I’ve always been fascinated with horses. They intrigue me and scare me at the same time. This time was no different. But before we could proceed to the horses, I had to have a little chat with Marlene and Maureen {I’ll refer to them as M&M from now on}. They needed to understand why I was there and what I wanted to get out of the session.

Before arriving, each client is given a series of questions to help guide us into further understanding what our roadblocks are, what’s holding us back, what do we do really well, and what do we want. This questionnaire is essential for M&M to gain a better understanding of what’s keeping us stuck. Although, the real session comes when you’re face to face with your horse. The whole process inherently lies within each of us individually.


M&M explained that the horse is a mirror of our true selves, reflecting our fears, insecurities, and attributes. They further explain that horses are intuitive creatures with the ability to draw out our own personality flaws and strengths to help us gain an understanding of what might be holding us back and how we interact with others. The horse does this without judgement and only wants to connect with us, which requires us to be our authentic selves.

I could have sat there and listened to them talk about this for hours but I was also chomping at the bit to get out there and meet my horse. But before that, we had one last step to take and that’s when I got to choose from 2 stacks of horse cards. The client is allowed to choose as many cards as they are compelled to. I selfishly chose 6. But I couldn’t help myself – there was something about each one. The strange thing is they all somehow said the same thing. My favourite was the one I posted above, but the message of each was very similar, which meant I probably needed to take heed.

At last, it was time to meet the horses. I was both excited and nervous. Excited because well, I get to play with horses. Nervous because what if the horses don’t like me? What if I don’t open up enough? What if they think I’m a bad person? So many insecurities rising to the surface… M&M would probably ask “What does that say about you? Is it because you care too much about what others think of you?” Hmmm…let that sink in.


We then entered into a domed arena with a fenced in section. This is where the magic happens. I was guided through a series of exercises to heighten my senses and help me get further in the moment and my surroundings. Smell the smells around me, really listen to the sounds in the distance, and feel every part of my body to bring me closer to the same state in which a horse naturally lives. It was very calming. Quite honestly, I probably could’ve fallen asleep.  But it was time to dig in.

Mojo was just hanging out in the fenced in area waiting for me to get in there. I had no idea until it happened that I was also going to be in the fenced in area. With Mojo, a 1000 pound animal. By myself. Alone. To say I was nervous is an understatement but within seconds, I felt at ease and ready to try out the technique Marlene had showed me beforehand. Rope in hand, I began banging it against my leg in a sad attempt to get Mojo to do what I wanted. The problem is I honestly didn’t know what I wanted Mojo to do. The thoughts I had going through my head were “Am I doing this right? I don’t think I’m doing this right? I wish I paid more attention to the tutorial. I have no idea what I’m doing.” Mojo had no idea what I wanted him to do either so he just sat there staring at me waiting for me to do something other than what I had been doing. My confidence was waning. I was feeling really insecure. M&M started asking me questions about how I felt, what was holding me back, how are my feelings and actions at this moment mirrored in my everyday life. The answers that spewed out were quite eye-opening. I could see the power of this exercise and how it could unlock a part of me that had been stuck for so long.

The crazy thing is, you don’t just leave your session and think that’s all you’ll gain from this experience. Nope. You’ll be doing the dishes or going for a bike ride a few days later when BAM! some new revelation about the experience and yourself will make itself known.

So I guess you could do coaching the traditional way – sitting in an air-conditioned office talking to someone about your perceived issues on a weekly basis until forever. Or you can spend the day in the country with the fresh air, commingling with nature, surrounded by majestic creatures as they help guide you to a better understanding of what you need to do in your life to reach your goals. It’s kind of a no-brainer.


We were professional colleagues who enjoyed working together in the Federal Government. Throughout our employment together, we came to realize we had many things in common. People frequently confused our names & we had a mutual love of animals {Marlene – horses; Maureen – dogs}. We both worked full time for three decades and we were looking for something exciting and meaningful to do for our “next act.” During lunch one day we began discussing the idea of partnering with horses to move people forward in their lives. The clouds parted and the next stop was Arizona to train with Koelle Simpson to become Equus Coaches.


1. If you could tell people to do one thing that could potentially change their lives, what would it be?
Explore your relationship with your thoughts.2. What’s your favorite smell?
The smell of horses.3. What do you do when you’re feeling low?
Be with and ride my horse {MA}. Listen for the message {MD}.4. What is your favorite time of day?
Mornings in my hot tub {MA}. Morning {MD}.5. Do you have a favorite restaurant in Ottawa? If so, what is it?
Black Dog in Manotick {MA}. Signatures in Ottawa {MD}6. What’s your favorite thing about yourself or what do you think others would say it is?
My authenticity {MA}. My sense of humour {MD}.7. Favorite cuss word? You’re not allowed to skip this!
OMG! {MA} Mother of God! {MD}

8. What’s your favorite social media outlet?

9. What book or movie should we read/watch right now?
Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver; Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton; The Life of Pi {movie}

10. Name one person living or dead who has made a difference in your life and briefly explain how.
Tony Robbins – his Unleash the Power Within Conference helped me to move forward when I was looking for answers…. my life changed completely {MA}. Dawn Taylor, my teacher for 20 years who thought me to listen to my inner voice {MD}.


unbridledcoaching11Marlene Armstrong has had a passion for horses as far back as she can remember. She owns Foxview Stables in Ottawa, has an Honours degree – Bachelor of Commerce, with a concentration in Human Resources.  She is a certified Equus Coach. Marlene’s vision is to expand Equus Coaching opportunities throughout Canada.  She plans to transform Foxview Stables into a world-renown Equus Coaching Centre.

Maureen Donoghue’s main focus for the last 30 years has revolved around helping others in their personal and professional development. She has obtained a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and religion, a Bachelor of Education with a concentration in counselling and a Master of Education in educational counselling. She discovered Equus Coaching in 2010 .They both underwent a year-long training program with Koelle Simpson, a world renowned Master Equus Coach.Please visit their website for more information & programs:



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