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Ride in Cyprus: An Interview with Caroline Penman

07/10/2014 - by Admin
It is not often that one encounters an establishment like Ride in Cyprus where the horses that are stabled there play such a pivotal role not only in terms of trekking but also as teachers for people learning about leadership, team building or even personal development training.  This is why we wanted to speak with the person who was responsible for setting up the stables, Caroline Penman, and find out how her love for horses translated into what Ride in Cyprus has become.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Caroline Penman?

Caroline Penman is a passionate individual with a mission! She travelled the world for 25 years as an ‘Army Wife’ and has always had horses around her - in the UK, Germany, Kuwait and Cyprus. She lived in Cyprus from 2002-2005, organising her first 6 day trek through the mountains in 2004 then to Cyprus permanently in 2007, building the stables in 2008.  It is a dream come true for her to enable others to ride across this beautiful countryside, she and the herd have the best office in the world! Caroline is a fully qualified member of the European Association for Horse Assisted Education and she enjoys working with the herd where they are the teachers for humans learning Leadership, Team Building and Personal Development Training.

2. When was Ride in Cyprus established and how does it differ from other horse riding schools on the island?

Ride in Cyprus Ltd was founded in 2007 to bring people to enjoy the breath-taking scenery of the mountains and plains, meandering through abandoned Turkish Cypriot villages and forest tracks. Longer and overnight treks add to the adventure and little time is spent in the school, clients learn as they go and the pace is tempered to suit their ability and needs!  The horses live out as a herd and have a large field with stable doors open for shelter and water. There is no club or membership – casual rides focusing on the relationship with the horse and correct balance enjoying the scenery.... and having fun!

3. You are a fully qualified member of the European Association for Horse Assisted Education. Please elaborate as to what Horse Assisted Education is.

Horse Assisted Education is a powerful experiential approach for developing aligned personal skills by working in partnership with horses.  You try out your skills with a large powerful horse to do simple tasks – the horse is looking for leadership every step of the way and you quickly find out how to become an effective leader, you will be amazed at how instant and accurate the feedback is – guaranteed.  Horse Assisted Team Building is a unique and powerful experiential team event working with horses where you will experience positive change in your teams by an understanding and appreciation of the unique skills of each team member.  Team members actually work together in challenging situations, not roleplaying and pretend. They learn how to engage with the whole team more effectively and leave with a clear vision on how to work together which contributes to their feeling part of a cohesive, high performance team.  So we focus on how and who you are in the team, clarity of purpose, awareness, belief in self and others, confidence and the importance and dynamics within the team.

4. What is the philosophy behind using horse assisted learning with disabled children?

Horse Assisted Education is very different from Riding for the Disabled.  It is about relationship and personal development. Autistic spectrum children and adults are especially affected by the relationship they can forge with a horse.  The horse is non-judgemental, keys into the child’s ‘inner light’ in an empathetic way and so brings some calm and peace to the child where they can find a stillness.  From this still point, they can develop their skills at their pace with their friend guiding them every step of the way :-)

5. Is this type of learning supported by the medical or psychiatric profession in Cyprus?

No, there is much more focus on suppressing the symptoms (which our society sees as so inconvenient!) with drugs. We have much to learn about holistic care here in Cyprus :-)

6. Please explain the role that your horses play in the Leadership, Team Building and Personal Development Training that you offer.

Horses are extremely canny herd animals that respond well to good congruent leadership and instinctively, but very passively challenge weak leadership.  They do not have a personal agenda, they just respond to who you are and how you are at any moment.  Human to human communication is 93% nonverbal, yet most education and training centres concentrate on the remaining 7% - words!  As you learn to lead a horse without words (and without force, or eventually, any rope...) you are developing the neglected 93%.

7. Ride in Cyprus arranges a variety of different treks that one can go on, on horseback.  Do you think that many of your clientele have been surprised by the extensive natural beauty that Cyprus has and that they get to discover on the treks?

Comments such as “This isn’t Cyprus, this is some paradise place!” are usual – people tell me it’s so good it should be illegal!   We trek through the forest and across plains through deserted Turkish Cypriot villages and picnic amongst the trees – there are no fences, the views are breath-taking and the horses are the best team in the world!

8. Ride in Cyprus is inadvertently promoting agrotourism in Cyprus through the treks that you offer and take people on.  Do you think enough is being done by organisations like the CTO to promote agroutourism here?

No not nearly enough, especially as Tourism has suddenly become the most valuable asset Cyprus has!  Yes, Ride in Cyprus brings many people from overseas especially to ride and I have many ideas to promote experiences in the forest and mountains, but every enquiry is a hurdle of bureaucracy! (So I’m looking for sponsors!) Some individuals within the organisation are excellent, of course, but the CTO is often described as “The Wolf with no teeth” – no member of their organisation has ever visited Ride in Cyprus in 7 years even though we have been Number 1 on Trip Advisor for three years!   So many people who would otherwise not have discovered this part of Cyprus now only come here and more and more plan to settle here.

9. Is horse-riding popular in Cyprus? Are your customers predominantly Cypriot or do you cater to the tourists more?

’Riding’ Cypriots seem to get involved in club and competition riding which is mainly confined to the arena.  Some, who have often been abroad, know the joy of riding outside, but over 95% of my clients are tourists or Ex-Pats and I’m impressed by the number of tourists who will bring the entire family from Paphos for a ride which starts at 6am in August!  Local people love to come and see the horses but have to be encouraged to relax, get out of the car, breathe and meet the horses in quietness...... They all say they love horses, but many have a big problem when it comes to animal welfare. A beautiful colt who was introduced to me as ‘dangerous’ (turned out to be the owner who had a dangerous attitude ... a primary school teacher!!) and became the most wonderful part of the team here was taken back from his time with us, promising he would be in a field within 5 days and has been tied to a tree ever since – it’s a typical and heart-breaking situation :-(

Ride In Cyprus
Lysos Village, Paphos, Cyprus
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