What is Equine Assisted Learning?

Personal Development While Using ‘Horse Sense’

Equine Assisted Learning is an experiential approach to teaching life skills using horses. Here at Abbey Gardens we have two critically endangered Ojibwe Horses as well as a miniature appaloosa horse. Our EAL program offers a unique experience to get up close and personal with this special breed while learning life skills in a fun and interactive way. The Ojibwe Horse was formerly known as the Lac La Croix Pony, the name officially changed in 2019.

Why Horses?

Working with horses teaches lessons that we can apply to our lives and retain far longer than sitting in ‘just another classroom’. Participants are empowered as they work through group exercises with a focus on developing individual qualities while having fun.


Clear Communicaters

Horses communicate clearly, honestly and instantly, they cannot lie or over think a situation.


Keen Senses

They are a prey animal so their senses are very keen. They can hear our heart beat and they will react to the slightest changes within a team – allowing facilitators to find those “teachable moments”.


Teamwork Ethic

In a horse’s world, teamwork is respected and expected. Any conflicts are handled swiftly so that life in the herd maintains balance. Horses respect fair consequences.


Leadership roles

Herds are to horses as teams are to people. Horses look for strong leadership. Our participants learn to step up because if a horse doesn’t have a leader, they will become the leader.


Strong listeners

Horses communicate in the same way with people – that is why listening to what horses have to say (non-verbally) is powerful. Powerful enough to inspire change


naturally intuitive

Horses may be constantly assessing us, but they will never judge us. By their intuitive nature, horses can provide facilitators with a window into the participant’s personality.



By including horses in specially designed learning programs, participants are given the opportunity for self-discovery.


excellent teachers

The horse does the teaching; facilitators are there to offer explanation and provide guidance as they work through the solution.

unleash your potential

Abbey Gardens Pony Powered Learning Experience (APPLE) is founded on the Certified Building Block™ program, which is the first nationally recognized Equine Assisted Learning program. This Equine Assisted Learning program series was originally designed to facilitate the building of personal development skills, while ‘using horse sense’.

Working together with our Ojibwe Horses, participants will learn appropriate assertiveness, how to set boundaries, build strong communication skills and develop foundations for leadership. Unleash your potential with customized equine programming at Abbey Gardens.

Pick the APPLE program for you

Visit the Abbey Gardens program calendar for upcoming APPLE programs.  Programs can be customized to suit your needs and learning objectives. Contact us to start customizing your experience.

Pony Trekking

Enjoy all that Abbey Gardens has to offer on these one of a kind, guided hikes.

Walking alongside you, our ponies encourage you to view the beautiful natural surroundings from a completely different perspective. Equines teach us to live in the moment and relish the simple pleasures of a ramble in nature. Fridays at 11am from April to November. $12 per person. Visit our programming page to register.

Be Your Best Self

Sometimes we have areas of ourselves we know we need to work on … but it’s tough!

Abbey Gardens offers 1 ½ hour, equine guided, one on one customized programming focussed on building confidence, social and communication skills, goal setting and overcoming barriers: $80/session


Whether it be a child or adult, we offer private group birthday parties with planned activities and great photo opportunities.

Our ponies are happy to put on their party hats and entertain everyone. Let us enhance your celebration! Add ponies to your party! $150 for 1.5 hours.

Photo Sessions

Abbey Gardens is pleased to be able to offer beautiful natural settings for your professional photography. 

We provide the place, the ponies and the handler, you provide the photographer. Because our ponies are well trained and handled, they are the perfect choice for wedding and family film projects. $250 per 2 ½ hour session with up to 3 horses.

Take the Lead

(ages 15 – 18)

Take the Lead! is part of the Abbey Gardens “Leader in Training” program which is designed to help youth develop leadership skills while assisting programming staff in the delivery of summer camps.

“Leaders in Training” (LIT’s) will participate in this one day orientation program which will include an introduction to our ponies and their role at Abbey Gardens. Our ponies will help demonstrate the effectiveness of trust and respect, teach participants appropriate assertiveness while helping hone verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Reflection and goal setting exercises combined with familiarization of Abbey Gardens and summer camps offered on-site will complete the day. Participants of this program will further develop their leadership skills by assisting with at least one of Abbey Gardens’ summer camps as part of the Leader in Training program.

Professional Development

While many things are sold as “team building,” few have actual impact. They may be fun, such as playing paintball, but do they change anything; do they create a viable return on investment for the organization?

These workshops are fun, memorable and unique events but also deliver practical action plans for how to translate what was learnt back at work.  

Kids Rein

A parent and child (ages 3-6)  program with an emphasis on positive and appropriate interaction.

This program will develop and reinforce fine and gross motor skills, vocabulary (verbal and non-verbal communication) and integration of the tactile system. 1/2 hour session, $30/parent & child, max of 3 child parent teams.

Ladies Night

As women, we tend to leave ourselves last on the list of priorities, which can cause us to lose touch with our authentic selves, the creative, confident, purpose filled ones we were meant to be.

Our ponies are terrific teachers and help us find those ‘ah-ha’ moments.  They will help push you out of your comfort zone allowing you to grow in confidence in fun new ways. You will come away a more courageous, self-aware and excited you!

Date Night

Did you ever think that the missing piece to improving communication styles, conflict resolution, self-expression and your relationship just might be…A PONY?

Our Pony Powered date nights are designed to build relationship skills in a relaxed, interesting way as you, your partner and equine team member problem solve through exercises that will challenge you to see alternative perspectives.  Programs can be customized to suit your needs and learning objectives. Contact us to start customizing your experience.

Taking The Reins

What do you get when you combine horses, young people and leadership skills training? Taking the Reins! This program will foster confidence and leadership skills in a safe outdoor environment.

Each day includes an introduction to the art and science of horsemanship, hands-on in all aspects of the care, management and training of our ponies: learning to properly catch, groom and handle our rare breed ambassadors. Fun horse focussed activities will be interspersed with Equine Assisted Learning sessions. Using our powerful teachers, Sammy, Maple and Flapjack, participants will develop confidence, self-awareness about their behaviour, and alternative skills to help them overcome challenges and cope with the social pressures they face today. Taking the Reins! challenges individuals to discover themselves and be inspired to reach their full potential as they confidently grow into young leaders.

All horsemanship is based on ground training techniques and care, there is no riding.

About our APPLE facilitator…

Lesley has loved horses for as long as she can remember! She started riding at the age of 9 when her military father was stationed in West Africa, taking lessons with the local cavalry squadron. Lesley took a year off after high school to study for, and receive her British Horse Society Instructors certification. In the many, many years since she has competed in 3 Day Eventing as well as coached teams and individuals to competition level in equine sports as diverse as the Prince Philip Cup mounted games and Canadian Pony Club Tetrathlon. Over the years Lesley’s coaching and training style has evolved to include elements of Natural Horsemanship and traditional methods along with her own common sense approach. She was thrilled when she was able to add Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator certification, from the best-in-class Dreamwinds Centre, to her credentials. Lesley is excited about her partnership with Abbey Gardens, facilitating EAL programming and raising awareness of Abbey Garden’s critically endangered Ojibwe Horses.


“Some of the lessons I learned during Apple can be applied with staff and customers at work.  Thank you for a great session!”

“Apple taught me to live in the moment and communicate clearly with my peers and coworkers. “

“We sent our two kids to the pony camp at Abbey Gardens and they both adored it. They came home every night filled with stories of the day’s activities and a strong desire to return the next day. The instructors were warm and informative, the activities were pitched at just the right level, and the ponies were sweet and approachable. Abbey Gardens is also the perfect setting for the camp: a beautiful place with all sorts of other great things to do. This was a real highlight of our summer – Malcolm Thorburn “

Contact Us To Learn More

Be sure to follow on Facebook for news and resources!

Find us at 1012 Garden Gate Drive, Haliburton,ON.     705.754.GROW (4769)