Lesley and Malcolm Gough are the present ‘owners’ of Chater Valley Farm. This is their story.
“OWNERS” doesn’t feel quite the right word to Malcolm and I however. As the Native Americans believe and someone once said: “What is this you call property? It cannot be the earth, for the land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beasts, birds, fish and all men. The woods, the streams, everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all. How can one man say it belongs only to him?”
We feel like we are the guardians of Chater Valley, simply trying to leave it better than we found it. We like sharing its beauty, its calmness, its energy, and its safe and protective environment, which helps us to help others reconnect with their authentic souls. One day we shall probably call it the “Chater Valley Retreat” as that is the journey we are on.
People ask me what do I call myself. Once upon a time the answer to that question would have been easy – therapist, stress management counsellor, nurse etc. But my Journey of Life has brought me to a place which I find harder to describe, but if l were pressed, l think it would be a blend of the following: Equine Psychotherapist, Nature’s Disciple and Soul Guide.
Below you can see a record of the key dates of my work experiences and qualifications, which may provide some comfort and confidence to those people who like to read such things. But what this list does not convey is who I am or who I strive to be.
Having studied many different methodologies for helping people, l have found early in my career that Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy (CBT) was my favoured approach.
I have a degree in Behavioural Studies, which combines Psychology with Sociology, to provide a more holistic understanding of individuals. Following my degree, I went on to study Counselling at Goldsmiths University and then specialised in CBT at Derby University.
Despite spending most of my career working within the NHS, I always dreamt of being able to combine my psychotherapy experience with my love of the outdoors and my special interest in horses. This was a significant moment in my life. When practising CBT I always felt there was something more in trying to help people in need. It wasn’t until I started to practise Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy that l realised what it was that I had been missing. We spend so much time in our heads and many modern therapies are still geared to ‘fixing people’ by helping them to adjust the way they think. There’s nothing wrong in that. It’s just incomplete. What about what we feel? What makes us happy? What’s our true purpose in life?
Working with horses has given me the answers, or at least a route by which I can help others find their own answers. Horses are herd animals and they have been around for a very long time and a lot longer than humans. Being prey animals they have developed a kind of super power which helps them communicate especially when they are threatened – it’s not just verbal communication or even super developed body language but an ability to sense energy and feelings. Put a human being in with a horse and it is very likely the horse will act as a mirror to the emotions and feelings of that person. If the person pretends to be happy but inside they are feeling deep sadness from a hurtful past, the horse is likely to sense that almost immediately. It can often come as a shock to someone that a horse can so easily ‘see through them’, especially if they have been “in disguise” most of their lives. This moment of authenticity is often the start of a person’s journey to a life full of authenticity and real expressed feelings. I feel like the navigator in this process, helping people to interpret the mirroring energy of the horse. It’s a beautiful thing.
As time passed I realised l had a deep connection with the animals that lived with us at Chater Valley, and my interest in Nature was deepening day by day. The realisation suddenly hit me – we are all connected. In fact I’d go further than that, l believe that everything is connected to everything else and hat life itself is the most precious thing.
It was about this time that the culture of Native Americans came into our lives. The environmental wisdom and spirituality of the First Nation tribes is legendary.
Animals were respected as equal in rights to humans. Of course they were hunted, but only for food, and the hunter first asked permission of the animal’s spirit. Among the hunter-gatherers the land was owned in common: there was no concept of private property in land, and the idea that it could be bought and sold was repugnant. Many Indians had an appreciation of nature’s beauty as intense as any Romantic poet. Religious beliefs varied between tribes, but there was a widespread belief in a Great Spirit who created the earth, and who pervaded everything.
Wisdom derives from way of life, and is as fragile as nature. Many Indians shared their animism, their respect for nature and their attitude to the land with other hunter-gatherers. But when ways of life change, beliefs change to support them.
Beliefs can also change ways of life. Our present way of life is laying waste to the environment that supports us. New beliefs can help us to change that way of life, and in arriving at those beliefs, we can learn immensely from the beliefs of the North American Indians and indeed many indigenous tribes around the world.
So this brings our story almost up to date. Our love of Native American culture and Mother Earth has led us down a path to embrace elements of Shamanism, Meditation, Yoga and a more conscious way of living. These themes come out in the Retreats, Workshops and Courses we now run at Chater Valley.
We look forward to welcoming you to Chater Valley.
- Diploma in Stress Management incorporating Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, Problem Focused Psychotherapy, Assertion and Communication Counselling, Trauma and PTSD Counselling and Multimodal Therapy, Centre for Stress Management,London
- BA Degree in Behavioural Studies, Anglian Ruskin University, Cambridge
- Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling, Goldsmiths University, London
- Postgraduate Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy, University of Derby
Continued Professional Development
- Advanced Mentorship in Equine Facilitated Learning, Kathleen Barry Ingram, Board Certified Coach and Master Psychotherapist, and co-founder of the EPONA Approach with Linda Kohanow
- Certificate of Coaching and Mentoring, Learning to Listen, Wetherby, accredited by The Leadership Centre, Leeds Metropolitan University
- Unleash the Power Within, Anthony Robbins, London
- Human Givens Work, Mind fields, The European Therapy Studies Institute
- Child and Adolescent Mental Health, CAMH, NHS Princess of Wales Hospital
- Loss and Grief Psychotherapy, Gold Training and Counselling Services, Cambridge
- Promoting Sexual Health with Vulnerable Children and Young People, CAMH, NHS PoW Hospital
- Transactional Analysis 101, Institute of Transactional Analysis, The Berne Institute, Nottingham
- Coaching Success, The Coaching Academy, London
Meet the herd
Bear: I’m the new guy around here. In my quiet courageous way I am beginning tomake friends, and slowly learning how to be accepted by the herd and understand the values and culture. I’m finding eating times a bit competitive but think I’ve got the hang of it now. I was rescued along with 20 other cobs roaming Colwyn Bay in North Wales. I try to be gentle, engaging, protective, humble and generous in spirit. I like working with Lesley and the people she helps.
Lady May: I like to be seen as a gentle, loving little Falabella, and although I am diminutive in size, I have a big heart and a big presence. I also fully own my feminine power. I take great pride in that I was the first herd member to arrive at Chater Valley and have just loved trying to find my way into the hearts and souls of some of our visiting gifted children. I am told I am very loving, protective and supportive, as well as being a great mum to Leon. Just trying to teach him some manners right now. If he nips Lola again, he’s grounded!
Lola: I’m a Falabella and came from France where I was born. I really love tender moments of connection. I like to get as close as possible to share some grooming time with my herd and human friends like Malcolm (left). Lesley tells me l awaken the magic in everyone I meet. I also remind them about the importance of true friendship, loyalty and passion for our cause, and to have the courage to champion justice for all. I have one blue eye, which is quite unusual. That pesky Leon keeps chasing after me but I’m not ready for a relationship just yet.
Bella: I am clear about my boundaries, honest about my changeable moods, sweet when I choose and sensitive about my own space. I am a black and white cob mare. I’m lively, love to be free and playful when in the pasture. I like to be joyful and affectionate with some, but my human friends say I can be a little testy. At just four years old I’ve done a lot in my young life. I can be ridden or driven in a carriage, but haven’tdone that for a while. Lesley fell in love with me on a visit to Appleby where I was being sold by my previous human friends. Lesley turned up at the fair with no money or trailer, but the kind people of Appleby lent her a trailer so as she could bring me home to Chater Valley Farm. Since then I’ve become the boss girl around here and I like to move my friends around when the feeling takes me. That’s because I’m the lead mare . . . but I sometime have to let Hero take charge. Boys!
Hero: I’m an Irish Sports horse who’s life has been at the service of humans in the show jumping ring. I joined the herd here at the farm in 2014. I was rehomed from Bransby Horse Sanctuary where I used to live. I am reserved with new people and it takes considerable time to gain my trust with some humans. That’s because I had an unhappy spell with some humans before now. I have a very soft spot for Bella and we always seem to hang out. She thinks she’s the boss but I have to remind her once in a while that sometimes I know best. I don’t like to see my herd friends quarrelling so usually intervene if I get the chance.
Leon: I am the only one in the herd that was actually born on the farm. So I’m pureblood Rutlander! I was born at Christmas and for ages I thought my world world was permanently covered in snow. Mymother, Lady May, says I’m a feisty and very independent little fellow. I don’t know about that, I just think I’m confident in my own skin. She says I’m not yet emotionally mature enough to work with therapeutic clients. I don’t know what she’s talking about ‚ all these grown ups, what do they know?! I have to admit that I do love to do things my way. After all, I’m the only stallion around here even though I am a small Falabella the herd is teaching me boundary lessons at present, l’m not sure what that means either.
Why are horses so good at helping people?
An eagle can spot a hare from a mile away; a bat can fly an intricate path at night using its hearing alone; and horses can be the perfect ‘mirror’ to your feelings and emotions. Equine-assisted therapy/learning takes full advantage of this power by partnering with horses in the therapeutic process. Horse assisted therapy, or Equine Assisted Learning as it is sometimes called, works to develop high sensory awareness in individuals, in order to bring about positive change in their lives. Equine assisted therapy (no riding involved) can benefit many people by:
- Helping individuals face fears, increase confidence, sensitivity and trust
- Showing a way forward for people who feel overwhelmed at work
- Supporting those experienced trauma, depression, anxiety or mental health issues
- Becoming authentic and true to self by providing challenging, fun and therapeutic healing
Why wait to have more joy, balance and freedom in your life? Book your free introductory session with Lesley Gough, accredited Psychotherapist & Coach, partnered by our beautiful herd of horses in the lovely surroundings of Chater Valley Farm. Contact Lesley in confidence on 01780 720660 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
” Why wait to have more joy, balance and freedom in your life? “