3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Victoria Smith - Lancashire’s horse whisperer

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 May 2018

Victoria Smith with Charlie the horse

Victoria Smith with Charlie the horse


Victoria Smith always loved horses but her high pressure job meant she had little time to ride – until she met a deer in the Forest of Bowland

Victoria Smith with Charlie the horseVictoria Smith with Charlie the horse

Today, Victoria Smith’s reputation as a horse whisperer has led to her working all over the world. She’s featured on the BBC programme Countryfile and has recently been asked to be a celebrity contestant on the television show Big Brother’:

That was an offer that she could – and did – refuse. ‘Horse whispering and Big Brother are probably two worlds that should never collide,’ laughs the 43-year-old Wiganer, who decided to become a horse whisperer when she had a chance encounter with a wild deer in the Forest of Bowland.

‘At the time, I had a financial career in London and had just been diagnosed with lymphoma. I suddenly wondered what on earth I was doing with my life. I loved horses, I had been a show-jumper, I had an affinity with them and yet my busy career meant that I had very little time to spend with them.

‘ I decided to spend some time back home in Lancashire re-assessing my life and, it was while walking in the Forest of Bowland, experiencing the glorious countryside and having the magical experience of a wild deer come unusually close to me, that I made up my mind – I would come home and be a horse whisperer.’

Victoria massages whilst Madeleine Ashforth bonds with CharlieVictoria massages whilst Madeleine Ashforth bonds with Charlie

Of course, one just doesn’t decide to become a horse whisperer. It isn’t the sort of thing that the careers teacher is going to suggest but, before going to London, Victoria had built up years of experience working with horses and developing her instinctive ability to allow them to trust her.

‘I have been riding since I was two and had always been around them,’ says Victoria, who operates from her home town of Wigan. ‘I was a lonely child and they were my friends. As a teenager, I would offer to muck out neighbours’ stables in order for the chance to ride.’

It was around this time, that people began to notice she had an ability with troublesome horses – horses that refused to enter a horse box or refused to be broken.

‘Quite often, I would be sent for when more experienced riders would be reluctant to help. I have to say that if I was a cat, I would have used up all my nine lives – after all, horses are powerful, wild animals and they have to be treated with respect,’ explains Victoria, who as well as undergoing training in America and Holland, once even spent time sleeping in a stable with one particular horse until she had gained his trust.

Victoria SmithVictoria Smith

For Victoria, now recovered from her illness, gaining trust is paramount as it is only then that any issues can be worked on. Often, she does this using a technique she calls ‘Join Up’.

‘This is a method of communication that echoes how horses behave in the wild – if you like, this is the horse whispering bit. Horses are herd animals, so in Join Up, I become the dominant alpha female.

‘I send the horse away by throwing the reigns at his bottom but at the same time, I catch his eye and watch his ears for signals that he has accepted me as the dominant one.

‘When I think the horse is ready, I walk away and stand quietly, with my back to it, just waiting for it to walk up to me of its own accord – to ‘join up’ with me.

Victoria Smith with Charlie the horse, doing part of the Join Up programme where the horse is encouraged to come to her as part of its own volitionVictoria Smith with Charlie the horse, doing part of the Join Up programme where the horse is encouraged to come to her as part of its own volition

‘ It looks dramatic and it can make on-lookers nervous but when the horse comes to me, it means that it has accepted me as a dominant force and we can begin work on any behavioural problems, as well as the occasional massage.

‘Touch wood, it has worked every single time and one session is all that is needed.

‘That said, once I have a client, they are a client for life and if any other problems come up they can call me at any time. In fact, as many clients are in different time zones, phone calls at any time are something I’ve come to expect.’

Recent clients have included 15-year-old Madeleine Ashforth and her horse, Charlie, a horse who wasn’t too happy about being mounted.

Victoria Smith shows and explains to Madeleine Ashforth the importance of stretching and massaging the horse as part of trust and to relieve any tensionVictoria Smith shows and explains to Madeleine Ashforth the importance of stretching and massaging the horse as part of trust and to relieve any tension

Victoria soon sorted that out, just as she persuaded a horse in France that unexpectedly rearing up wasn’t a good idea. She also calmed down a horse whose behaviour was so aggressive, he had put people in hospital.

‘In that case, the owners were frightened to let it out, so when I led him into the field, he had a huge sensory shock.

‘In fact, at one point, it was all too much for him and he galloped towards me with his teeth bare and his ears flat back.

‘That was when my tenth life came to my rescue! With hardly any pause for thought, I whipped off my coat and waved at him. My heart was pounding but another horse which was in the field ran over and blocked him and miraculously, the aggressive horse calmed down, changed direction and enjoyed a good old gallop and graze.

‘It was hugely moving to see him enjoy himself for the first time in his life and he hasn’t displayed any aggression since.’

Victoria is in demand not only for her own whispering services but also for the courses that she offers to anyone who feels that they would like to learn more about her methods.

‘Yes, I train people as well as horses,’ says Victoria, whose ambition it is to whisper to sharks – in which case, maybe she should re-consider appearing on Big Brother!


More from Out & About


A circular walk which skirts the Lune estuary and takes in the Lancaster Canal and the railway line.

Read more

Behind the ancient sandstone facade of Browsholme Hall is a remarkable ethos of 21st century sustainability and care for the environment.

Read more
Thursday, August 16, 2018

Keswick really is a gem of a town – just ask anyone from jeweller Brian Fulton to mountaineering legend Sir Chris Bonington

Read more
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

From cyclists to star-gazers, Bowland is attracting more visitors. It’s Hetty Byrne’s job to ensure they have fun without harming the environment

Read more

The town has shown a lot of bottle to bounce back from a national mocking. Now, its football team and its high street are on the up

Read more
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

People of all ages are doing their bit to ensure Croston retains its place as one of our favourite villages

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Get away from it all and hit the heights with these great (but challenging) Lakeland rounds

Read more
Lake District
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Pete Tasker has celebrated 30 years with the National Trust.

Read more
Beatrix Potter
Monday, August 6, 2018

A newly launched loyalty card means supporting local businesses is all the rage

Read more
Thursday, August 2, 2018

After years of damaging peat extraction Lancashire’s mosslands are being restored. The Wildlife Trust campaigns manager Alan Wright visits two – Cadishead Moss and Little Woolden Moss in Salford

Read more
Monday, July 30, 2018

Ramsbottom may have become a property hotspot and a foodie destination in recent years, but thing that remains a constant is the wonderful walking landscape right on its doorstep.

Read more
Monday, July 23, 2018

Huge swathes of Lancashire countryside have been destroyed by fires which have wiped out whole ecosystems

Read more
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Handmade and homegrown are the key to success at these Burscough businesses, writes Rebekka O’Grady

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

Water vole numbers have plummeted in the last 10 years caused mainly by a 30 per cent decline in their habitats. The Carbon Landscape’s Katie Chambers goes on a search for these rare mammals.

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Property Search