Her arms around her mother’s waist on horseback, staying home from school to help educate newly broken in youngsters, being called upon by local farmers to round up cattle, welcoming new life each foaling season. Embarking on a 20km ride with her mother, aged just four. Riding trackwork, educating and rehoming horses from age eight. At ten saving up for her own pony, breaking him in enroute to a successful showing career.
From day one Jessica’s life has been horse-centric. And little wonder with her parents being well known studmasters Peter & Pauline Liston, owners and managers of Three Bridges Thoroughbreds. Peter was not born into the horse world, farming was his family’s forte. But once meeting Pauline he had no choice but to become part of it… being born into a family of Standardbred breeders, horses were essential to her being. This love of horse has been passed on to the next generation of Listons and there are few around as passionate about the relationship between horse and human as Jessica. So much so that she happily spent 18 months in Germany, studying for her international masters degree in Equine Assisted Coaching (EAC) at the Institut fur Pferdegestuzte Therapie.The only Australian with this impressive qualification, Jessica excelled in her studies – despite the considerable barrier of lessons being conducted in a language she did not speak! Something that points towards her devotion to her life’s work. Jessica cherishes her relationship with horses and wants to share that with others.
Such as the children she taught whilst working at the progressive Candlebark school in the Macedon Ranges. It was there that Jessica first implemented an equestrian programme, making horses a part of every day life for students… the world’s first school based equine assisted therapy program. Watching children flourish by the simple deed of spending time with – learning from and taking responsibility for the care of – horses, inspired her. Some of these children were dealing with issues such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem; their interaction with horses proving to be a powerful force for good in not only their lives (on their outlook to life, their ability to believe in themselves and to successfully navigate various set-backs and challenges) but also in the lives of their siblings and parents.
This is a programme that is still running, the children’s confidence improving to the point where students have now taken charge of it, regularly bringing in other schools including those catering to children with special needs. Jessica still runs such programs as well, working in conjunction with the popular Collingwood Children’s Farm.
Adults derive great benefit from spending time with horses as well, and Jessica’s Inner Rhythm business – one which runs leadership and team building programs (such as womens healing retreats and executive coaching) centred around horses – is gaining a well deserved good reputation.”Horses are herd animals who make each other feel safe,” Jessica said, “and they pick up on what is going on with us. If you are in a bad mood, they feel it… you can earn great understanding from a horse and form a real connection. There is nobody who cannot gain something from this relationship.” Jessica has a special piece of her heart reserved for three horses in particular – her retired racehorse Jorge (“he was too slow to race” Peter Liston said), her shetland pony Sweetie and her waler Digby.
The history of the waler breed is of such great appeal to Jessica that she was able to raise over $25,000 in a “Save The Waler” expedition that saw her and Pauline travel to the Northern Territory to capture, re-train and re-home some 20 of the uniquely Australian breed. It was quite the achievement, one which showcased Jessica’s skill sets in regards to horse husbandry (catching and gaining the trust of wild horses), to organisation (getting trucks to seldom traversed areas), to dealing with bureaucracy (coordinating with a large number of local landowners and councils) to raising public awareness through the media.
So what is next for Jessica? A desire to continue to bring people and horses together, hopefully in conjunction the racing industry. In an era where anti-racing sentiment has gained traction on the back of the 7.30 Report’s expose and growing protests by such groups as the CPR, it is timely that programs educating the public take place. As the gap between horses and the general public widens, these issues intensify. We need to connect more people with horses and there is no better time to start than in childhood. As a qualified primary school teacher with considerable experience in this specific field, she is uniquely placed to engage children in the exciting world of the horse. She is a travelling show, able to bring her horses to the people, to discuss her equine adventures, to teach and inspire.
Article courtesy of Kristen Manning