A cry of "Whoa!" may bring a horse to a halt but there is nothing halting about the acronym WHOA. Wild Horses of Aotearoa is an organisation which helps teenagers with problems involving trust and confidence.
Murray Haitana uses horses as a unique learning resource for young people whose life experience has led them to distrust adults and feel badly about themselves. Working with horses effectively requires some of the core communication skills the young people will need to be effective in their future life. In order to work with the horse they must first establish trust and find ways to communicate non-verbally while picking up non-verbal cues from the horse.
If students do not assert themselves with Murray's horses the horses will take control. If they are unclear in their communication the horses will get confused. The challenge for these young people is to establish leadership without becoming frustrated or angry. These are big and in many cases frightening animals, so whenever the youngsters get a successful response from the animal they are building belief in their ability to succeed.
Produced by Jack Perkins for Radio New Zealand