Equine Leadership Sixth Edition

Page 1

Equine Leadership

EQUINE LEADERSHIP a model of peaceful and positive living for all

February 2021

Sixth edition Page | - 1 February 2021


William Blake, the 18th Century visionary and poet, wrote: “In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.” A phrase later paraphrased by Aldus Huxley in his book “The Doors of Perception" and, of course, most famously by the rock band The Doors in the 1960s. The key thing here is that this is not just a passage between rooms, but access to knowledge, some insight, or a new experience. And when we step through them, there is no going back. There is no unlearning. There is no placing the lid back upon the box. In our grandiose moments we might name these “portals” – great entrances to citadels or the more ethereal, shamanic gateways between spirit realms. Whether we name them doors or portals, they surround us and they are within us. They mark the boundaries of our skin, our thoughts, our beliefs. The list goes on. Those of us who work alongside horses are in many ways like gate keepers. And the horses are the portals. They are the doors. When we stand before a horse; when we look into its eyes; when we walk beside them; if we are open, something shifts. Like walking through the portal, we are offered a new level of awareness. A level of awareness that respects how things are. Not our delusions of aspiration or agenda, not our shallow importance of position or self. Before these horses we become. With each pace, we step through another doorway. With each doorway, some fresh insight. Each opens our eyes, each peel back layers, each reaches out to that which is. The Reality that sits within the reality. The horses help us step back into our authentic selves. But they also help us to step out. In connecting with them, we connect back with nature, with Gaia – Mother Earth. This is the magic at the heart of the work that we do. Humanity needs horses. Humanity needs to recognize them for what they are. Portals. In stepping through, we return to, and reconnect with, that which is lost.; that which is within each of us; that which we share with every human, every horse and every living being. Let us step forward together. Let us accept the invitation of the horses. Let us step through the portal. ~*~ Penned by: Graeme Green, UK Page | - 2 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

Six years ago, I published the 1st issue of Equine Leadership. Who could have ever imagined then we would now be publishing an edition of Equine Leadership during a global pandemic? Who would have thought that Humanity Needs the Horses now more than ever before? We have all suffered grief and loss in some way, shape or form in this past year. And this year the horses, and our beautiful authors, come to us from their hearts as they always do. They are reaching out to our hearts to encourage us to connect with ourselves, with nature (which includes the horses) and with each other. Earlier this year Equine Leadership began an interview series with some of our authors from their farms. It was a chance to spend some time, virtually, with the horses and hear how they could assist humanity in finding peace and solace in this trying time. That series was called Humanity Needs the Horses. That title seemed so fitting that we decided to keep that theme for this 6th edition. Six years. Amazing. Let us start with a look at our line up this year in an unprecedented number of profound articles. I want to take this opportunity to thank each author for sharing their wisdom as well as the voice of the horse with us all. I want to thank my remarkable editor, Pat Hutchinson. For reading and editing, then doing it again. It is not an easy time to write and stay focused on the job at hand. My gratitude and appreciation to you all. Alumni author, Graeme Green starts us off by inviting us to step through the portal into the world of the horses. Mary-Joy Johnson demonstrates in Regeneration how horses are helping heal and recalibrate land just as they can do the same for humans. In Horses, Humanity and Heart, Eleni Argy brings youth into our awareness showing us how horses help bring clarity to their world that might be quite challenging at the moment. Moving onto Kelly Jones’ article, Allowing and Healing with Horses. Kelly takes us on a journey of grief and loss and demonstrates how horses support one woman to a brighter future. In Culture of the Heart, Kerri Lake takes us to visit with a herd of wild mustangs. She shares how humans can learn to communication without judgement and bring harmony into their lives. Overcoming Fear, penned by Kasey Thompson, speaks about what fear looks like for human and horse. Pat Hutchinson then brings us to three teachings from the horses that can aid humans in changing the way they live in, Evolving Self and Humanity. Without Saying Anything At All, written by Jonathan Varkul, offers the point of view of one that has experienced the horse-human connection multiple times. Who finds they say so much without saying anything at all. On to Samantha Thorpe’s piece, Deeper By The Day, where we accompany her on the journey of the horses’ relationship with humanity through the ages and into the future. A Change in Perspective by Esta Bernstein speaks to the communication between horses and humans and how they offer the key to helping us become comfortable with change. Dorothy Chiotti offers Self-Awareness and The Quest For Sacred Space. She shares steps and metaphors for us to create awareness and sacred space where we can then step into our authenticity. Raising Consciousness, written by Georgie McBurney, delves into human consciousness and posits: if the horse can enhance one person’s life imagine what it can do for the whole of humanity. Vivian Evans brings us to a space of nature, heart and horse in Return to Normal. Then, as is tradition, yours truly wraps it up in, The Masks We Wear. While donning the outer and doffing our inner masks the horses can model 3 important aspects to removing our inner disguises and show humanity a brighter future. And so, read on my friends. The horses are calling each of us individually and humanity as a whole. They are calling us to fill our hearts with compassion and kindness for all. If you are here, then they are calling you. The horses are waiting for you to connect with them and yourself. Read on! Connect! Raise the consciousness of the planet. Alongside the horses we can all walk towards a bright future!

As always, from my heart to yours! Lynda Watson & the EL Team

February 2021

Page | - 3 -


Equine Leadership

Table of contents

Regeneration By: Mary-Joy Johnson

Horses, Humanity & Heart By: Eleni Argy

Allowing & Healing With Horses

7

11

15

By: Kelly Jones

Culture Of The Heart

19

By: Kerri Lake

Overcoming Fear

25

By: Kasey Thompson

Evolving Self & Humanity

29

By: Pat Hutchinson

CONTRIBUTOR BIOS

Page | - 4 -

33

February 2021


Equine Leadership

Without Saying Anything At All By: Jonathan Varkul

39

Deeper By The Day

43

By: Samantha Thorpe

A Change In Perspective By: Esta Bernstein

47

Self-Awareness & The Quest For Sacred Space By: Dorothy Chiotti

Raising Consciousness

51

By: Georgie McBurney

55

Return To Normal

59

By: Vivian Evans

That Masks We Wear By: Lynda Watson

63

All photos in articles are taken by the author unless other photo credit is stated. Front & Back covers and full-page layouts are taken by publisher.

Note: Any client names have been changed to protect privacy.

February 2021

Page | - 5 -


Equine Leadership

Page | - 6 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

Regeneration By: Mary-Joy Johnson, UK

“Look what was sown by the stars At night across the fields We are not defined by scars But by the incredible ability to heal” Lemn Sissay I know when I go to the fields, when I go to the horses, I am as close to the meaning of this poem as I could possibly be. Healing and regeneration are processes of positive change, within a responsive and dynamic system. Human health, in physiological and psychological terms, requires a certain dynamism to allow growth through change, challenge and response to disturbance or damage. Speaking of disturbance and damage. 2020. 2021. Wow. Is everyone ok? (I just need to say that, in print!)

February 2021

Page | - 7 -


Equine Leadership

RECALIBRATE I am sure many of you reading this will have had a very difficult year (and beyond). The need to take stock and to recalibrate, to ‘regenerate’, will not be lost on you. However, it can also feel like a burden. To ‘effort’ when you are exhausted and depleted is not the way forward, or certainly not always the first step. No. First we must rest, seek support where necessary, and allow some of the ‘reset’ needed, to come via a route of compassionate community care. I say this because the phrase ‘self-care’ still puts the onus on us as individuals to do the work: to take full responsibility for our recovery. When the events we have been strained by include those on a community, societal and global scale, then surely the healing and regeneration comes from a community, societal and global source.

We, like horses, are a highly social species. I don’t mean this in terms of sociability or that we have a high drive to be surrounded by others always, (far from it in many cases), but we do live in mutually influencing communities. We benefit from shared resources. We are raised in ‘families’ where our survival depends on a ‘primary carer’, and usually on extended connections with other humans. We are affected and influenced by our cultural community and country of birth. We are not separate. When we observe the nuanced and multiple

Page | - 8 -

expressions of relationship within a herd of wild horses, we see a myriad of complex affiliative (bonding) behaviours. These appear to be sustained and sustaining across a lifetime, and serve to support the survival and thriving of a herd. Where possible, horses in domesticated herds benefit from the same sustained and sustaining interactions within an established herd, across their lifespan. Nature models both ease and struggle in abundant and simple ways. I enjoy looking at and learning from these examples, as reminders of my own innate capacity to heal and grow after periods of difficulty and challenge. 2020 and 2021 are giving me plenty of practice! I have been forced, like so many, to refocus on my primary health and wellbeing needs. One of the ways I have repeatedly resourced and regenerated myself over the past 12 months was to spend simple, ‘non-agenda’ time with the herd of horses in my care. This has been and is easy to do as most of my husbandry follows the wild horse blueprint, and they live in as natural a setting as I can provide. I have had the most profoundly restorative experiences with them throughout the year. All, despite the profound challenges of: Covid-19, national and global social/racial injustice, a site move and the growth of the herd through the merging of 2 established smaller herds. In many ways it has been the dynamism, yet grace with which the horses have embraced their challenges, that has been my greatest inspiration.

THE PERFECT TIME It has always been a dream of my colleagues and I that we would bring our two herds together; one from my private practice on one site, and one from the charity I work with, on the other. We had always been waiting for the right time, right circumstances, and right budget; waiting

February 2021


Equine Leadership

for some sort of perfect alignment, where all would happen smoothly, for the humans as well as the horses. Yet the ‘perfect’ time came when all seemed wrong - in the middle of a pandemic! Many of the human team were dealing with ill health, changed home circumstances, or limited resources. There was a pull on our physical and mental capacity as we forged new ways to work with programs continuing to be delivered in ‘Covid safe’ ways. As we leaned on each other like never before, in congruent and authentic truth of our struggles, at times at a loss as to how we could go on as before, it dawned on us that things would never be the same. This needed to be more than a ‘project’, a ‘site move’ or a ‘business development’. It needed to be a wholesale regeneration of our underlying beliefs, dreams and game plan; a growth of our capacity, but from a deeper source. This time of change could have easily been accompanied by conflict. Stress, change and challenge can provoke conflict behaviours in both horses and humans. When the groundwork has been done though, when each being is honoured and respected as an individual with positive regard for all, wonderful things can happen. Time after time we were wowed by the grace and elegance of the new relationships forming within our combined herds, as they became their own growing community. Horses who had never met showed curiosity, strength and a willingness to find out how to live together. New bonds were being forged quickly, friendships and alliances were made, all so joyful to observe. As our human community was being taken to a new level of growth, and our cooperative qualities were being tested to the max, each day the horses modelled a resilience and openness to change and newness that took our breath away. We can also look, in an even broader way, at the February 2021

regenerative power of nature through large scale environmental, transformational processes that have happened elsewhere. Again, not because things were made or forced to be ‘right’, but where openness, curiosity and a willingness to wait and see, to fail and to take new turns, became the guiding principle. One such example where nature has taken the lead and triumphed is a project on the Knepp Estate in West Sussex, UK (near to where I am based). Over the past 20 years they shifted their failing mainstream agricultural business, and instead, focused on a regenerative approach to land and soil health across their impressive 3,500 acre farm. In a thoughtful, yet hands off approach, they turned their land back over to nature. They introduced a herd of native horses, deer, cows and pigs in areas across their land, replicating the natural behaviours of ruminants and non-ruminant herbivores, and their crucial role in the soil and grass cycle of life. In so doing the landscape changed. It regenerated. A remarkable number of wild species of invertebrate, mammal and bird returned and thrived. More than was ever imagined.

REGENERATIVE POTENTIAL Often our own personal difficulties and lack of wellbeing can stem from not being attuned to our own regenerative potential. We can be stuck

Page | - 9 -


Equine Leadership

in a protective cycle where change feels like too much of a risk. Perhaps because we can’t see it or we don’t believe positive change is possible. Maybe it has never been modelled to us, or maybe life has been so chronically tough or traumatic, that those skills and the self-belief to fuel them have not developed. However, when we combine wellbeing practices, particularly when we have reached an ‘edge’, with a return to being in more natural spaces, we amplify the potential to regenerate, beyond the sum of its parts. I am sure many of us can attest to a deeper sense of ‘benefit’, a broader and more profound orientation, and resetting of our own mental and physical systems, when in healthy and dynamic natural environments. Nature shows us, without a doubt, that this is possible. The combined work of; regenerating natural spaces alongside our own healing, amplifying the chorus of life being lived, with horses as an intrinsic part of the setting, puts the Equine Facilitated Experience/Intervention into a new territory of healing practice. Horses are a link, through a relational lens, whereby we can communicate with and experience the wider natural world (macrocosm), and our own intimate relational world - in particular the

relationship (microcosm).

we

have

with

ourselves

My focus for 2021 is now on what I CAN do. I can focus on that 0.1-degree internal shift that explodes new possibilities. As in the world of regenerative conservation, the reintroduction of semi-feral herds of horses into ‘domestic wild’ spaces is being used more and more, in recognition of horses as an intricate part of sustainable ecosystems. They are now recognized for how they can contribute to an ever-increasing regeneration of the land. Something about this return to an understanding of horses as mammals within the ecosphere, is evocative of a change we all might benefit from. Can we reintroduce horses into our own domestic lives? Can we create a space that is welcoming to the ‘wild’ and new; can we learn from the horses’ ways of living as authentic, adaptive communities? Can we grow, not despite our current challenges, but because of them? When I look to my new, grown herd, thriving and living through their challenges with health and vitality, I truly believe we can. Stay Safe and Well. ~*~

“Horses are a link…whereby which we can communicate with and experience the wider natural world (macrocosm) and our own intimate relational world (microcosm).”

Page | - 10 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

HORSES, HUMANITY AND HEART The simplicity of ‘being’ through the eyes of our children By: Eleni Argy, Australia

Our children and young people are the soulful artists of the colourful canvas of humanity’s future. These young minds and hearts hold the capability to move forward with strength in today’s uncertain realm. Navigating the current ambiguity of our present, has bubbled up a deep sense of grief for our past and future - so how can the children of today’s world feel hopeful, and see themselves with vibrancy, walking through it all with courage, when their parents and teachers and leaders are delicately crumbling?

CANVAS OF CURRENT HUMANITY The burdens faced by our children and youth today seem like mountains to climb, but it is within the liberation of that breath of fresh air, and in the simplicity of the equine kingdom, that they might find their clarity. Our kids and teens have been largely misunderstood, undervalued and de-voiced. Have we forgotten how to lead them with kindness, how to parent with compassion, how February 2021

to teach them with empathy, so that they may grow into the kind, compassionate and empathetic leaders, parents and teachers we expect them to become? Are we so lost in the discolouration of humanity and too busy grieving the world we have known, that we have forgotten how to teach our children to fingerpaint, to play in the dirt, to unapologetically make a giant mess, and to run barefoot on the grass yelling jibberish and laughing at the top of their lungs? How can we re-remind them to be

Page | - 11 -


Equine Leadership

children, when we ourselves as adults are struggling to re-remember how to be human? Fortunately, through the muddy waters of our complex world, a re-remembering of simplicity is beginning to emerge. It is the simple world that Mother Nature continues to intend for us, to brightly paint for us, but an image we sometimes lack the clarity to see. Through our busy business of being busy, we have lost sight of the bees and the birds and the trees, the feel of the wind, the movement of the waves, and the precious sounds of silence. The gentle hues and pigments of this canvas make up the gentle space where our animals live. In the simplicity of nature, these large and tiny beings with their inner knowing, have all the answers. So do our children, if we guide them to their heart; for it is there that they can find their vision, their voice and their true sense of ’being’. The animal kingdom knows no expression of judgement of a world gone “wrong”. The animals of our earth have no need to remember how to simply BE in a “new world” with a “new normal” where we “right the wrongs” of others and take no responsibility ourselves. Our animal partners, all the magnificent creatures of this earth, just move forward from their heart, looking after each other as they go, simply moving forward with no complexity, just moment to moment, with a simplicity of being. This is why interacting with animals can be the perfect reminder to reremember who we are, and why we are here on this earth. They are the impeccable leaders and parents and teachers for us all – if we have the courage to see into their world and listen to their silence.

THE HEART OF A CHILD From the age of two, I could feel in the core of my body and soul that what was happening in my family was not “normal”. Other children appeared happy, carefree and unafraid. I was born into a seemingly loving home, that held deep secrets of family violence, which were endured in a never-ending journey of sheer Page | - 12 -

survival for the first 20 years of my life. This path that I traversed, together with my mother and two brothers, led to a long road of healing, spanning a lifetime for us all. As a child, I was on a constant search for the feelings of peace, safety and innocence that I witnessed in the eyes of other children. My quest for freedom from my sadness and fear led me to an outdoor realm. Amongst the trees in our back yard with our menagerie of dogs, bunnies, turtles, fish, lizards, frogs, all of which made me feel that I belonged somewhere in the natural world, my broken heart could fly, escape, and be free like the wind. When I was 7 years old, I went on a school excursion to the local police station, the mounted division, where I got to see big horses in close proximity for the first time. The warm smile of an officer dressed in blue is tattooed in memory. As he gently lifted me onto a large horse, I remember the dark brown fur, and the sweet smell of kindness. The officer walked me down the driveway of the station, past my classmates. Proudly perched upon this huge February 2021


Equine Leadership

animal, I vividly recall the profound sense of safety that resonated deep inside my body. It was a sense of security and freedom that I had never before felt. I am still not sure if my sense of security stemmed from knowing I was unharmable, being surrounded by a squad of police officers, or from the strength of this enormous animal who had the power to crush me, but willingly chose to gently and graciously carry me instead.

or the natural world with all its seasons, all of which cycle back into familiar patterns of evolution, of life and death and growth. As adults we circle back to the innocence and curiosity of children to find our “authentic selves”, in search of our “truth” of “who we were before the trauma”. Children naturally embody the untainted truth, intuitiveness and purity of the animal kingdom. There is no animal that more profoundly embodies this hyper-sensitive awareness, insight, and empathetic perception of truth, than the horse. Horses taught me how to embody this compassionate whole-ness through every fiber of my being. Horses have gifted me that complete level of one-ness with myself, with humanity and with all of nature. Horses have the unwavering ability to look into the soul of a human, to lock eyes with a child, to speak to a teenager, to listen to a parent, to touch the spirit of a traumatised human, and offer a deep, silent “knowing” which resonates through the heart, that they are, you are, we are, in that very moment, completely and utterly safe.

Perhaps it was a combination of all those things, but the only thing that was certain, was this experience resonated deeply inside my young body, in every cell of my physical, emotional and spiritual being, gifting me with a sensation of the true embodiment of “freedom”. I felt emancipated from my pain, even just for a few minutes, for the first time ever. From that moment I knew that somehow, I was suddenly on a lifelong quest for this very sensation of liberation. What I did not know, was that horses would inevitably become my perpetual refuge and sanctuary.

HORSES AND A WHOLE-NESS OF BEING My own traumas have given me a cyclical perspective on life. The flow of emotional acceptance allows for a cleansing of past obstructions, much like a river flowing back into the ocean, or the cycles of the animal kingdom, February 2021

Parallel to navigating my own healing, I have had a 30-year career supporting very vulnerable children, youth and families, most often teens and parents in crisis, very much like my own childhood and adolescence had been. I have been a stark witness to this profound circle of connectedness emerging through vulnerability, a world where all your parts can become whole, through gentle interactions with horses. I have often said that I have spent the first 20 years of my life experiencing trauma, and the next 30 years trying to overcome it. I never wanted another child in this world to ever experience the pain and abuse that my brothers and I did. My long spanning work in Equine Assisted Education and Therapy has been fueled by a tenacious commitment to supporting children, teens, and any other humans great and small, who venture into the intricacies of their trauma story, and are curious enough to listen to my own story about what saved me. Horses. Each day, I behold with wonder the subtle, yet Page | - 13 -


Equine Leadership

profound moments of healing experienced by the children, young people and individuals who interact open-heartedly with our herd. One of our 13-yr old clients openly described her anxiety and how spending time with our horses helped to alleviate it. “It feels like it’s lowly building, like butterflies, and I can't breathe. My heart is beating fast, and I just feel I need to get out of here. It feels like getting thrown by a wave, with everything happening at high speed, and I can't pay attention to what’s real. But being around animals is different. It’s calming, and it’s easy to talk when the horses are around. It is easy to separate my body from my anxiety, and I can put it aside and will deal with it when I have the skills and tools. Horses taught me to just breathe. You know your body is in alignment because you can feel it in your gut. I have an awareness of it all now. The horses helped me grow more mature and insightful.”

THE PRESENCE OF SPIRIT Horses generously bestow upon humans the perpetual gifts of acceptance, forgiveness, selflove, and compassion. There is no greater platform for healing, evolution and personal growth than the co-creation of an experience with horses. Through these silently inspired moments, the truth and simplicity of “being”, is possible. While many of us still struggle to embody its essence, this sense of presence is the true coherence of our body, mind, heart and spirit, traversing from the most tangible elements of our physical existence, to the ethereal and deeply individual essence of our spiritual being. A nine-year old girl visiting our horses for the first time, perfectly articulated her understanding of “spirit”. “Spirit is that thing you cannot see, but it guides you in everything you do.” There is truly no greater virtue of humanity, in its purest form, than the heart of a horse connecting so graciously and unconditionally to the spirit of a child. ~*~

“Horses have the unwavering ability to look into the soul of a human, to lock eyes with a child, to speak to a teenager, to listen to a parent, to touch the spirit of a traumatised human, and offer a deep, silent “knowing” which resonates through the heart, that they are, you are, we are, in that very moment, completely and utterly safe.” Page | - 14 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

ALLOWING AND HEALING WITH HORSES By: Kelly Jones, U.S.A.

When she walked into the paddock the small bay mare slowly and carefully made her way over to gently greet the new human. Immediately the young woman’s shoulders relaxed and a bright smile lit up her face. It was the beginning of what would be a beautiful journey to healing and renewal.

grief

heal

/ɡrēf/ Noun deep sorrow

/hēl/ Verb to become sound or healthy again

Humans in the West tend to underestimate the power and necessity of grief to heal. Grief is related to loss. Loss is common and disrupts our lives, forces change, and creates a need to establish a new normal. Loss of a loved one, a home, a natural habitat, a dream, a friend, a job or business, purpose, of love and even the loss

February 2021

of a false sense of self. Allowing for the loss and experiencing grief is a natural step in the healing process. This opens space to allow for joy to enter in once again. Without taking this difficult but necessary step in the process of healing, humans can get stuck.

Page | - 15 -


Equine Leadership

LOSS THEN MOVING ON Trauma causes loss. It disrupts our sense of safety which can ripple through our lives wreaking havoc. It can affect our health, relationships, vocation and even the ability to remain present and engaged in life. Physiologically trauma impacts the nervous system, initiating a survival response as was intended. Not allowing for grief, compartmentalizing and pushing emotions and bodily sensations away, disengages us from our bodies. This sense of floating in the world, lost and without purpose, can become that reoccurring nightmare that stalks our sleep and even our time awake. Restlessness, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, manic behaviors and even checking out or disassociating settle in as normal. Happiness becomes something only other people have. All because of a fear that if grief is allowed to permeate our beings, it would stay forever. Without the authenticity and congruency found when humans help other humans, healing cannot truly occur. In order to heal our brains must sense safety and, in turn, allow the body to rest. This involves a slower heart rate, slower breathing, lower blood pressure and an awakening of senses such as sight, smell, touch and taste. The presence of horses in this process facilitates this connection to self along this journey to rediscover peace and joy, re-engaging our senses and awareness. Horses have a giant energy force surrounding them all of the time and because of this, a trusting interaction between horse and human can powerfully move a human into a space for healing. Their constant powerful presence in the moment, opening space, and their authentic immediate feedback, serve to reconnect and restore. This physiological, Page | - 16 -

emotional and spiritual experience is deeply impactful. If allowed this can shift us out of being disconnected and into our bodies to feel grief and allow it to flow through and out. This is a natural process seen frequently in nature when animals experience trauma and loss. For example, horses grieve. Their lives are dependent on social interactions with one another and they are hard-wired for relationships. When taken from their mothers, their herds, their homes or beloved owners, there should be an expectation that they will grieve. Wild stallions grieve the loss of mares to other stallions, while mares mourn the loss of friendships and offspring. When humans observe the grieving process of horses, they will notice that there is deep grief and then there is healing. It is usually short-lived and powerful, yet seemingly simple to our untrained eyes. Death is part of life. Loss is part of living. They seem to recognize these truths and remain connected to those around them while continuing along the journey of life. They do not shy away from death or sadness. There is no fear associated with the recognition of the loss of life. Only allowing; and then moving on.

ANGEE’S JOURNEY One example of this necessary process of grieving loss is the story of a young woman, Angee, who has a traumatic brain injury. A young college graduate with a bright future, she was walking home from work in her neighborhood one evening, and was struck by a truck that ran a stop sign. The impact caused her head to strike the hood of the truck. The momentum of the crash then threw her 20 feet away where her head came in contact with the concrete. She woke up in the hospital, not February 2021


Equine Leadership

remembering what happened, and not knowing where she was. Somehow this young woman fell through the cracks. She was discharged with a severe head trauma, and without any follow up care or therapy. With the help of friends and family she regained her strength, but the damage to her brain was done. She struggled with memory and speech. In addition, she struggled with many losses; a sense of safety, trust in a system that was supposed to help her, her job, of relationships and loss of confidence in herself and her identity. This young woman bravely made an appointment with me, four years after her accident. She was in traditional talk therapy, trying desperately to regain her life and purpose. Many would have given up, but she had the courage, strength and resilience that was hard to miss. With the support of her therapist, she asked for help from my horses and me. So began Angee’s journey of healing with horses.

It was powerful witnessing Leda move, gracefully and intentionally, into the space with Angee. Immediately she felt Leda’s presence and was drawn to her. Quiet, slow grooming ensued, with nothing to disrupt the growing trust in connection. Melting into her soft coat, soft tears began to fall as grieving was finally allowed. Leda moved into her and held her, supporting her through this moment, not afraid of the pain or shying away from the tears. Learning that grief comes in waves, and that it is not ugly and destructive, is a powerful lesson. As the cleansing of grief happens, and the body begins the process of slowly letting go, relaxation starts to move in. Breath comes in, gentle and deep. With each inhale and exhale our client stood taller and her demeanor began to shift.

Re-establishing her ability to be present in her body was the first step. Walking slowly through the tree-covered trails, listening to the sounds of the birds singing, feeling the breeze going through the leaves and the crunch of acorns under our feet, started the process. A sense of belonging and connection was necessary to establishing safety in order for her body and brain to heal. Along with the slow process of reconnecting her body to her brain, she also needed to reconnect to her spirit or true essence. Leda, a 20-year-old bay quarter horse mare, was the horse she chose for her journey. This mare is a gentle and strong soul, a horse I have been blessed to partner with for 16 years. She is honest as the day is long, gives nothing away and can sense pain in a human. She does not shy away. She moves into the pain, into the search for peace, and carefully supports those she helps. This time was no different.

February 2021

Within a few weeks this brave young woman was steadier on her feet. Her memory was better and her speech smoother. Angee had gained confidence and even made appointments to gain closure around her accident and the lack of follow up care. A neurologist assured her of her progress, which was affirming and empowering. A new job even presented itself!

Page | - 17 -


Equine Leadership

Given the progress and steady increase in strength, it was time to reconnect Angee’s brain to her body. Mindfulness work around how her body was connected to the Earth and to Leda helped immensely. Finally, a noticeable quivering of her limbs established that her body was reconnecting itself and the sensation of connection flooded her body. Her therapist was joyful about her progress and recommended that she continue her journey with Leda. I firmly believe that without Leda’s calming and strong presence throughout this process, Angee would not have made the progress that she has made. Only through the unconditional giving of healing strength by another sentient being, was she able to restore her spirit, body and mind to a place of healing and the prospect of joy, and a

feeling of hope for a future. Although loss is inevitable in this life, we must move forward, never forgetting that grieving loss is necessary to heal. Awareness of self is necessary for an open heart and mind ready to adjust to a new normal. Today Angee is working towards a degree in nursing. She is also passionate about supporting new parents who are struggling. Her beautiful heart and regained strength are a gift to so many. Without taking the first step out of her comfort zone, and contacting me to work with a horse, she may not have regained the confidence to move forward and experience joy again. Horses truly do heal. ~*~

“A trusting interaction between horse and human can powerfully move a human into a space for healing.”

Page | - 18 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

A CULTURE OF THE HEART Including yourself in the harmony of connection By: Kerri Lake, U.S.A.

Sixteen formerly wild horses now live together in a five-acre pasture in Western Colorado. After they were removed from their wild homes, these horses were considered dangerous. Trainer after trainer was unable to “break” these motley souls. They were labeled “failures” at being a valuable service to humanity. It was decided that there was no hope for these ones, that their greatest value to humans would be realized at the slaughterhouse.

Today, ten people will step into the five-acre pasture with these “dangerous” horses. There is a little anxiety. How will the horses respond? Will they accept human presence after other humans worked so hard to “break” them? Will the horses resent human presence? The value of Mustang lives is measured differently in this gathering. These people have February 2021

shown up to simply be with the horses. There will be no training, no ropes or whips. On this day, the value of the horses is found simply in their presence. Rather than all ten entering the pasture at once, they break up into pairs. Two open the gate and close it behind them. The next two enter. Then the next two. Horses stand in small groups, Page | - 19 -


Equine Leadership

finishing their breakfast of rich, Colorado hay. The herd is in constant communication with one another. Each watches the other for information about their visitors. Ears move, individuals shift their weight, and they use their breath to communicate a general sense of ease, or danger. As the humans enter their world, the horses munch their hay without skipping a beat, and they exhale. They are relaxed. Even in their relaxation, all of the horses are aware, connected and communicating. Most barely lift their head to directly acknowledge their visitors. Annie is different. She’s the tallest and nearly the biggest Mustang in the herd. She happens to love connecting with people who love connecting with her! She breaks from her meal and walks straight over to greet her guests.

Annie comes with a history of refusing domination. One man tried to rope her and physically force her into submission. If Annie feels threatened, she may stand and defend herself. Wild horses prefer running toward safety, but they will turn and defend when there is no escape. The man who tried to dominate Annie found himself in the hospital with a separated shoulder. His injury wouldn’t have happened if he had connected with Annie and listened, rather than use force. Unfortunately, it was Annie who was saddled with a bad reputation for causing the injury. Knowing this history, and watching her approach, the group of ten had an opportunity to choose fear or simply relax with the rest of the herd and welcome Annie’s connection. Everybody chose relaxation. As Annie stepped up to the first person, her demeanour was soft and warm. She let out her breath, lowered her head and invited touch. A human hand reached out to stroke Annie’s neck, her face, her shoulder. Everybody’s energy expanded. Everyone’s heart expanded. And this was the beginning of an effortless day among the herd. Horses live in community with their hearts open, and they invite humans to join them in that shared connection.

WHAT IF HUMANS CREATED COMMUNITY LIKE HORSES DO? As a species, the horse intends harm to nothing. Horses organize their complex social structure for a common priority of harmony, or wellness for all. They share their sense, vision and collaboration for the chance to be nourished. Horses don't think about harmony, they don’t discuss it or analyze it. They feel it. Embodied harmony is a way of being that is largely unfamiliar to people, but it is a presence that speaks to the human heart with intuitive clarity.

Khaleesi

Page | - 20 -

After Annie broke the ice and found the humans receptive, Lucy and Shirley came over to say hello. Then Tamaya, Shadow and Big Rich showed up. Laverne and Tahotay weren’t far

February 2021


Equine Leadership

behind. People stood in pairs, randomly spaced around the 5 acres. Horses were free to approach or keep their distance, as they wished. There was no force by human or horse. Radiant heart energy touched everyone present, relaxing both the body and the mind. Horses have an energetic presence that extends far beyond their physical body. People came to spend time among the Mustangs to experience this sense of connection. Just standing, just being with the horses, gives people the chance to experience a deeper connection with their own heart. Opening the heart puts horses and humans in a shared field of communication. It’s a feeling that you can’t “un-experience” once you’ve felt it. You have it forever, to share in all of your relationships, as you wish. Horses receive their information about life, the environment, and each other through their senses. Individuals harmonize with one another because they share a common priority - life in harmony. In the absence of an external threat, even minor conflicts are just a form of communication. They are simply “being horses”. Their sense of safety is rooted in their ability to connect and communicate clearly with others, to listen and move toward life together. In their shared priority, the entire herd can respond when they sense danger or disharmony.

February 2021

Connection at this level offers the experience of never truly being alone. Someone always has your back. Denied this connection, individuals can be overcome with anxiety when forced to live alone or in isolation. They are missing the shared communication with others that provides a foundational sense of safety.

RE-ORGANIZE YOUR AWARENESS Rango and Clancy have been watching and feeling the herd and the people from a distance. In their unique ways, they sense whether they’d like to approach or stay where they are. The equine mind notices, calculates and translates information so that movement is true to what they feel. The safety of a herd blossoms from their willingness to feel and communicate their sense to one another. Some of the herd feels good approaching; others occupy a different part of the pasture. Together, they create a harmony where everyone feels safe, just as they are. How might we live and interact differently if we were provided an education of intuition around kindergarten-age? What if senses were valued, as much as the more common indoctrination into social conformity, at the beginning of our schooling? The human mind was never meant to navigate the world all by itself, but it has lost touch with its innate “herd,” the body and the heart. Just as horses remain aware of their senses (their body), humans can do the same. The body is designed to communicate senses - it is the part of you that is always and forever in the present moment. Feeling your senses always includes thinking. In fact, sensory information can Terri & Shadow help the mind navigate life with much greater

Page | - 21 -


Equine Leadership

ease. Give the mind a job of prioritizing sensory information, and it begins to function with intuitive clarity.

INTUITION PROVIDES INFORMATION Eight weeks ago, two new Mustang mares arrived from quarantine. Arya and Sansa were in quarantine because they came from the “killpen”, their lives spared from slaughter by the action of humans who find value in their existence. Why were those two saved and not the others? How do people choose to save one wild horse and not another? In this particular case, the horses and the humans are making choices together. There are some horses who put out the call, through their heart and their energy, that they are ready for a new kind of life. Human hearts sense this call. Human intuition produces a feeling through the body. A human mind recognizes the feeling and takes action. Kerri & Kalvin with Laverne

Along with experience in evaluating the health and management of a horse, people simply make their choices by “feel.” Experience alone offers only a partial foundation that can provide the greatest support when integrated with intuitive information. Horses may know how to find water from their experience in the terrain, but it is their intuitive sense that lets them know whether it’s a good time of day to approach. When a person is open to recognizing sensory information, their intuition will always guide them to dynamic and nourishing choices well founded in experience.

A FRIENDSHIP WITH THE MIND A wild horse’s education is all about sensing the world around them. Because our general human education did not include language and guidance for our senses and intuitive connection, the mind has been expected to notice, label, interpret, calculate, analyze, decide, attempt, re-group, try again, re-analyze and try again all by itself. No wonder it produces anxiety! What if the mind isn’t really a problem? What if it’s just missing some important sensory information? Separating the mind from the senses is impossible they are designed to work together. Senses provide information, and the mind translates it. The mind was never meant to figure out “how to be human” all by itself - it’s meant to work in harmony with its good friends: the body and the heart.

Arya and Sansa are ready to be released from smaller pens to join the herd. They’ll move onto the five acres to integrate and harmonize with Annie, Lucy and the others. What’s the best way to release them? Together? One at a time?

Page | - 22 -

Annie and Lucy are not using their mind to analyze whether this group of humans are safe to approach. They are feeling a sense of safety. No matter how much analysis the human mind engages in, people also take action because of how it feels when they do. Asking people to

February 2021


Equine Leadership

become aware of what they feel is tender and often frightening business for one reason only judgment. Time spent with horses can guide people to experience themselves, if even for a few seconds, without analysis or judgment. Horses let you “just be you.” When humans are willing to feel, and judge themselves as little as the horses judge them, innate connection and intuitive clarity can be restored. **Take a moment here and try the Be Kind with Your Mind exercise on page 24**

A CULTURE OF THE HEART Humanity is experiencing a profound and global shift. It’s time to recreate the way we are "being human." People's hearts are asking for a new kind of clarity in the way we relate to one another as individuals, societies and cultures, and to ourselves. Sixteen formerly wild, formerly dangerous, formerly un-valued Mustangs live together in harmony. They now welcome humans to share their space. Harmony is created through openness, connection and the absence of judgment. Listening to her own senses, Annie communicates to the others that she finds no

danger among her visitors. Lucy hears her and relaxes into gentle interaction. Rango and Clancy eventually come forward to share a little closer connection. Arya and Sansa watch and feel the absence of threat, learning that there are humans who are willing and able to listen, to connect. While humans are the only species capable of excluding themselves (temporarily) from their innate harmony with life, the opportunity for connection perpetually exists. Nature does not operate from a priority of correctness or conformity. It harmonizes for life. Any living being who includes themselves in nature’s movement toward life can experience the sense of “never alone" that we witness in a cohesive herd of horses. As two or more people share that state of being, they generate a harmonic connection, whether they are among horses or not. Once you've felt it, you can't un-feel a touch between hearts. Sense and intuition open the way for a heart-connection between horses, between people, and between all species. It is a unique honour to share this kind of space with once-wild horses who could walk away but choose to connect. They love being with people who are tuned to a culture of the heart. ~*~

“To listen like a horse is to listen without judgment.” Kerri Lake

February 2021

Page | - 23 -


Equine Leadership

BE KIND WITH YOUR MIND - AN EXERCISE The mind is trying to help you - it’s been trying to help you survive by being constantly active. Well-intended as that may be, the thought patterns might not be “helping.” You can take a ten second break from any self-talk and chaotic thought patterns. Let’s start by folding your hands. If you don’t look down at your hands, how do you know if they are touching each other? Take a moment to notice your hands, and then…exhale. With your awareness on your hands, offer your mind a genuine “thank you,” right from your heart. “My dear friend, thank you for working so hard for me.” Take the full ten seconds. Or just take five, if ten is too much. Watch how your body responds when your “thank you” is genuine. How does it feel to be you when, from the heart, you acknowledge your mind for all of the hard work it’s done to bring you here? For ten seconds, don’t judge where you are. Simply experience your hands, experience your body. And let your body breathe. When the mind is acknowledged by the heart, how does the body respond? How does it feel to be you? Once the mind realizes it’s being genuinely thanked for its efforts, it tends to quiet down all by itself. Directing the mind to watch the body gives it a job that actually helps reduce anxiety. The body responds with immediate validation - in those ten seconds, did your body relax more? For horses and other non-humans, organizing for harmony happens without thought. For humans, it’s an option, one of many. We have the flexibility and capacity to choose how we organize our awareness, to include ourselves in this innate nature, or not. Where horses have one another to share senses and information for a sense of safety, people must begin sharing senses first within themselves. Play with this awareness. Once you feel the body respond to a relaxed mind, you can always regenerate the experience, ten seconds at a time. ~*~

Page | - 24 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

OVERCOMING FEAR By: Kasey Thompson, U.S.A.

There she was, my dear wife of 20 years, Jennifer staring straight into the flared nostrils of an animal she had feared nearly her whole life. My 7-year-old bay quarter horse, who moments earlier was bucking and running with all the excitement of the whole wild west, ran right at her, slowed from a gallop to a trot, to a walk, and stopped cold only a few inches from Jennifer’s nose. It was then that something magical happened that changed her life and mine. Moment’s earlier the bay became spooked by a hose, that in his mind was a venomous snake, and he wanted nothing to do with me or anything that resembled captivity. His triggered selfpreservation instinct was pumping adrenaline through his huge muscles as he ran from what he believed to be a life-threatening situation. The most interesting and inexplicable event was that my wife, with her fear intact, decided to walk out towards the charging horse due to what she explains as, an urge to help another scared and troubled soul. There was an emotional, burning call for help sent from the bay’s heart and mind to Jennifer’s that translated loosely to, “Help me and I’ll help you!” How did these two beautiful creatures compartmentalize their fears and find each other in an exquisite moment of

February 2021

compassionate concern? That was something I had to know. My horse reached deeper inside my wife’s psyche than any human effort had reached in her previous 37 years of life. Where did the untapped strength and courage to approach a charging animal originate - and why? Jennifer had been through it all as she was abused as a child, a victim of multiple sexual attacks in college, and a life long sufferer of depression. These events and others caused her to live her life in fear. Horses were just one more terrifying thing in her life. But that day she felt empathy for this previously frightening animal and reached out, because she knew the pain caused by fear and wanted to help.

Page | - 25 -


Equine Leadership

Fear had permeated my life as well. A decade ago, at the age of 40 I discovered just how much fear surrounded me. As a father I feared the loss of a child. As a professional I feared the loss of my job. As an individual I feared potential illness, not to mention so many other little piercing fears that I’d developed over a lifetime of worry and anxiety. To my surprise it was the silent, constant time spent engrossed in my brain’s limbic system that was subtly and silently taking me down, mentally. My worries and anxiety didn’t rise to the level of phobia. Maybe I would have noticed them earlier if they had. Instead, my fears were compiling to the point of failure because I was living the unexamined life. Never did I share my fears with a single person, which means I never tried to remedy my fears either and eventually they took their toll.

It was one winter night after a reasonably stressful day when the total weight of these collected concerns caused a total emotional collapse. I don’t remember one singular event that triggered what was about to happen, only that I felt my energy drain from my spirit and body by the day’s end. That evening, on the way home from work, my brain essentially decided the amount of anxiety was too much to handle, and quickly went into self-preservation mode by shutting down. I couldn’t think or talk clearly. My heart raced, but my mind raced faster. I felt like I was emotionally on fire. I didn’t understand what was happening to me other than I was scared. I was a grown man and I was terrified of life and all the “what ifs” that paraded through my brain everyday, all day. Eventually I was humbled to the point that I sought professional help, where I shared all that was plaguing me, and discovered just how common my experience was with adults and even children. My psychologist called it psychological burn out. I called it a life crisis. Others, including family and friends, called it a nervous breakdown. But whatever you call what I was experiencing, it was dark, lonely, and hopeless.

A GLIMMER OF HOPE I fell into a deep depression - an infirmity that I later discovered through therapy, had chronically plagued me since childhood. But again, I never shared that pain. I’d felt some of these feelings before, but this depression was different. I was listless yet edgy; panicked yet apathetic; and worst of all suicidal, yet I didn’t want to die. Those thoughts and feelings inundated me for weeks and even months until therapy and changes to my lifestyle provided a glimmer of hope and a yearning to live a different life. Part of that different life included re-entry into the equine world as a path to

Page | - 26 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

learning, healing, and peace. Associations with health professionals, equine professionals, and the equine itself have taught me how much the horse can offer and how much humans have to learn, from behavioral and psychological points of view. After all, a species that’s roamed the earth for millions of years obviously has a few tips and tricks to share with its two-legged counterparts in regard to healthy perpetuation of life.

TWO POINTS OF LEARNING So, what did the experience between Jennifer and the horse teach me about overcoming fear? What did the bay horse do that sent out a distress signal to my wife where she responded without delay and without thought of herself? I distilled the various observed actions of that day into 2 points of learning for further examination. 1. Fear is common between the horse and the human, but pride is not. We all have fears whether they be of heights, tight spaces, or sharks. Some fears may be much less detectable and require a third party to assist us in pinpointing them, such as fear of abandonment, fear of commitment, or a fear of failure. Regardless, we all have fear, as do horses. The difference between the horse and the human is that we repress, conceal, or bury our fears. There are many reasons why, but one controllable factor is pride. This type of pride exists because of another fear – the fear of being judged. My experience as a life coach, an equine specialist, and a human has taught me that this combination of fear and pride prevent a person from even approaching the entry to the path of healing, and likewise thwarts a great deal of curative therapy. It took the severity of a collapse on my part to finally be willing to get help and I know pride definitely played a part in keeping me from reaching out earlier. Interestingly, horses don't have this form of pride and are willing to let their fear be seen by all. Jennifer’s response to seeing the bay and his soul-smarting display of fear caused her to forget

February 2021

herself and help. How much better off would humanity be if vulnerability was acceptable in society? Then those who are willing could take note of other’s fears and provide assistance to the aching soul. 2. Relocate, regain perspective, reflect, but don’t ruminate. Horses move quickly away from the perceived place of danger to find a place of safety. At that point the adrenalin clears their system which allows logical thinking to re-start and gain a new perspective as it peers back at the source of fear. The horse looks back, usually with additional herd members. This reflective glance lasts only long enough to learn a lesson and then get back to the business of life. This behavior can be observed in what some call domestication, or others call desensitization, when horses become at ease in situations where they were once flighty and scared. For example, wild mustangs approach populated areas with less trepidation as they learn not to fear human civilization when no danger is present. In truth, dangers do exist for the horse, as they do in all our lives. But the horse is able to focus on survival needs while courage increases, and anxiety is reduced. Humans have a tendency to ruminate on a fear, re-live it, and expect it to reoccur. Our brain’s limbic system, whose job it is to be on the lookout for danger, can begin to dominate our thoughts. This leaves little time to focus on our true survival needs such as, physical and mental health, relationships, and self-development. We too, can focus on our needs, increase our courage, and reduce anxiety as taught to us by the horse, but we must first learn to be okay with sharing our fears and receiving assistance from our herd. The bay’s bucking and running showed he was scared and Jennifer, sensing his pain, acted as his trusted herd member to help. We won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of those therapeutic equine behaviors listed in the second point if we cannot get past the health-limiting pride noted in the first.

Page | - 27 -


Equine Leadership

Jennifer specifically exhibited the power of an empathic act of love, which is available to us from our family, friends, and helping professionals, because they ubiquitously understand what it’s like to suffer from fear. That commonality of fear can become the catalyst in assisting us to overcome the resistance of being vulnerable and trigger endless acts of assistance.

Once we can talk about our fear, we can then benefit from the safety, the combined learning, and the actions of the herd. It begins with each of us willingly sharing our fears as an exemplary act, in order to gain the described benefits. Once our fears are shared, the actions of love and empathy will definitely follow, as proven by Jennifer and the bay. ~*~

“For the first time in my life I saw what fear looked like in the eyes of a horse.” Jennifer Thompson

Page | - 28 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

EVOLVING SELF AND HUMANITY We choose what makes us strong By: Pat Hutchinson, Canada

We need to be fully present, place our trust in the horse, allow and honor their trust in us

Horses have been showing up for humanity for eons. Now, they are teaching us that in order to not just survive but also thrive, we need to: slow down; practice authenticity and just ‘be’. Perhaps we need to embrace these 3 teachings in order to raise our awareness and our consciousness, which in turn will change the way we live. Horses give us a glimpse of the proverbial Shangri-La.

CHANGE AND AWARENESS Five years ago I created a huge change in my life by making the decision to follow an inner prompting and begin Equine Facilitated Learning training. The logistics were concerning as it meant navigating through a very different type of life then I had experienced previously. I had taken early retirement a few years earlier from a

February 2021

completely different kind of work as a Civil Servant. I stepped onto a path that was foreign to me and I have never looked back. I went to see, not bring home, a few horses a friend was re-homing due to an upcoming move out of the province. One of the horses, a 17 yr. old Appaloosa gelding, would not be going as he would not do well in the new, extremely cold

Page | - 29 -


Equine Leadership

environment. It was fascinating, yet puzzling to see and feel a horse draw me to him, ever so subtly, somehow instilling in my awareness that we would be together. This at a time when I had no conscious intention of becoming the caretaker of any horse, let alone one that I couldn’t ride due to some less than compassionate treatment he had endured throughout his 17 years. Yet he came home with us! Were the horses calling me? Unequivocally and resoundingly, YES!

BEING VS DOING Over the next five years, after ‘doing’ so much to get to where I thought I was headed, I have come to a very different realization and understanding of this path I walk. I have learned from horses, in particular my Bud, now 23 years old, that to truly enter his world I must stop ‘doing’ and learn to ‘be’ with him and the other horses. ‘Being’ is the antithesis of everything I had previously learned. I became aware that Bud and a few other horses were gently guiding me. Finding that stillness, which Wayne Dyer called, ‘a place where nothing happens, yet all things are birthed’, is the experience I’ve repeatedly had and that Bud shares with clients.

into the round pen with Bud. The exercise was intended to help her clarify what her emotions were that were troubling her. As she connected with Bud from a slight distance, Bud walked to the edge of the pen and started weaving back and forth. I had never seen him do this before. The client asked me what he was doing and why. I explained the action and said that I hadn’t seen this behaviour in him before today. I asked her what she was feeling. She shared that she was having difficulty staying focussed on ’nothing’. Her thoughts kept bouncing around in her head. When she verbalized that, Bud stopped weaving and stood still. She then said that she does that a lot with people. She’s listening to them then realizes she’s in her own head not really listening to them. With that Bud licked and chewed, came over and put his head on her chest. She was now totally in that moment as tears fell and the experience and understanding penetrated her body.

It begins with the breath and a heart connection. This is so basic to all activity with horses if we’re going to connect with them. Something magical happens when we give ourselves the gift of surrendering completely to the process: the process of grounding our energy, connecting our heart energy to the horses’ heart and allowing ourselves to be wrapped in the horses’ huge energy field, to accept their gift to us and ‘do’ nothing. Somehow our awareness becomes sharper the more we can, to quote Eckert Tolle, be in the never-ending NOW. The more I do this, the more I feel, hear, know, learn and grow. I think differently than I used to. A young woman of about 35 yrs. of age was having difficulties with relationships. We went

Page | - 30 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

EVOLVING HUMANITY

it at the time, but knowing something shifted.

The horses have recently been focused on communicating that they are here to help us navigate through stormy waters and to become more aware of the subtle nuances in relationship, in life and in what is. They help us raise our awareness and our mindfulness. They show us that when we show up authentically, our communication is clear and our monkey mind just flows away.

An 18-year-old young woman came for a session with Bud. She was dressed in riding apparel, even though she knew there would be no riding. We sat outside a round pen where Bud was waiting and we chatted. As she talked about her experiences with horses, Bud began to race around the perimeter of the pen. This again was very unusual behaviour for him. I asked her how she was feeling right now. She confided that she had been riding for several years and that she was scared of horses and no one knew it. She was terrified of going into the round pen. With that admission, Bud immediately stopped racing and came over to the side of the pen where we were. He stood licking and chewing with his head over the top rail. The young woman started to cry. She opened her heart and her mind, dug deeper and talked further of her life. Bud continued to stand with his leg cocked, his eyes at halfmast, relaxed, present and holding space for her.

Horses live totally in the NOW. They don’t worry about the future or fret about the past. They cooperate and protect each other. They communicate clearly and non-verbally. They love unconditionally. They judge nothing. They show up ready to ‘be’ exactly what they are, no hidden agenda. When they meet the same qualities in a human who is in this very moment, no agenda,

an amazing expanded field of awareness and depth opens up to the human. But we do need to be present and allow ourselves to be enveloped in their ‘field’. I have seen clients, and myself, experience physical and emotional relief and insight into past traumas. I have witnessed many tears, my own included: tears of joy; of an unexpected awareness; and tears of gratitude. So many tears washing away self-judgment, lack of self respect, shame and comprehension of the effects of their own subtle behaviours. So many tears of joy to finally feel at peace, having experienced an undeniable shift, not necessarily understanding

February 2021

Then the young woman asked what had caused the change in Bud’s behaviour. We talked about what she had observed herself in his behaviour and what that meant to her. She shared how she was feeling when she arrived and how she felt now. She understood that horses ‘see’ us with their heart energy and not just with their eyes. She understood what she had repressed and how a shift had happened. We went into the round pen and the young woman experienced being totally accepted, not judged and was totally present to the experience. She felt the relief in her body, of the truth being admitted and shared. She also experienced and later shared, the physical and emotional feeling when her fear disappeared.

Page | - 31 -


Equine Leadership

RAISING CONSCIOUSNESS

understand we are all connected at a deep level.

Somehow the horses are able to instil an awareness of something deeper in us. For us to accept what is freely given, seems to be to learn from: their ability to read energy; their nonjudgment; their lack of monkey mind; the importance of body language; their cooperative groups; their connection to something so much bigger than what we see.

Horses somehow know we are at a crossroads. Humans cannot sustain our old ways and remain on this beautiful planet. The horses want to help us evolve. They know much that we don’t. We can do it, but only if we have an open mind and an open heart.

These magnificent beings are once again present for us. They show us what we need to do to get to the next level in our evolution. We need to do what they do: develop our awareness of our ability to read energy; be non-judgmental; get control of our monkey mind; be consciously aware of body language; live cooperatively; connect to something bigger than ourselves;

Humanity needs the awareness, the political will and the commitment to making this jump. The horses are able to show us that we too already have everything we need to accomplish this. We can just be still and ‘it’ will surface. Horses expand our perceptions and show us a larger picture of what our world and our relationships could be, if we would just cooperate. We could indeed live in Shangri-La. ~*~

“Sifting through the choices of greenery, we choose that which nurtures and sustains us. We release the difficult, indigestible bits. We choose what makes us strong.” The horses

Page | - 32 -

February 2021


Contributor bios

Equine Leadership

MARY-JOY JOHNSON

Dip-EFPT, Dip-EFHD, Member National Council of Psychotherapists, UKPTS, ESTSS, MSAFE (Accred) Mary-Joy is the founder of Wildways Therapy. Trained in the IFEEL Method of Equine Facilitated Psychotraumatology, Brainspotting and other protocols, Mary-Joy works in private practice as a Trauma Therapist. She is also a Programme Director for the Dare To Live Trust, delivering Trauma-Informed programs for Adoptive Parents, Foster Carers, Military Veterans, First Responders and Youth Service Professionals. Mary-Joy is passionate about regenerative land management, grazing ecology and creating healthy, sustainable, living systems whether on the land or in human families, organizations and communities where trauma has left its mark. Mary-Joy is based in East Sussex, UK. “Weaving the wild back into our hearts and minds, together we return.” Wildways Therapy, Psychotherapy & Trauma Treatment Services www.wildwaystherapy.co.uk The Dare To Live Trust , Registered Charity No. 1157442 www.daretolive.org.uk

ELENI ARGY B.A., Harvard University, CBEIP-ED Eleni Argy is a certified Equine Interaction Professional in Education (CBEIP-ED), and the Founder of Sheez Like the Wind Equine Experiences and Equine Experience International, based in Sydney, Australia. With an Honours degree in Humanities from Harvard University, further graduate studies in Social Sciences, and a Diploma in Gestalt Therapy, Eleni specializes in working with youth and families through a successful career in community services, mental health support, and education. Eleni is a certified Clinical HeartMath Practitioner, and a certified Practitioner in Integrative Wellness, a Professional Life Coach, as well as a Master Practitioner in Usui Reiki, and incorporates holistic health and wellbeing practices, as well as Post Traumatic Growth principles, into her work with horses and people. Eleni has devised and facilitated alternative learning programs through countless educational institutions and community organizations worldwide, and has been a lecturer and facilitator in various colleges and universities across the globe. Eleni’s innovative experiential learning programs in Equine Assisted Education, Therapy and Wellbeing support an ever-evolving international community, through a global network of humans connecting in a meaningful way with horses. Sheez Like The Wind Equine Experiences www.sheezlikethewind.com eleni@sheezlikethewind.com

February 2021

Page | - 33 -


Equine Leadership

Contributor bios

KELLY JONES Kelly is a certified equine professional with the Natural Lifemanship (NL) Institute. She is passionate about supporting people who are struggling with feeling stuck that affects their relationships and quality of life. Whether in a team with a licensed mental health professional (EAMH) or as life coach and facilitator of restorative retreats (EAL), clients can gain awareness and experience a lifelong transformational shift. She manages her 15acre oasis in the Texas Hill Country as a refuge for those seeking healing and restoration. Kelly purchased Ponderosita Ranch in 1999, home to South Wind Equestrian Center (2004) and Unbridled Connection, Inc. (2019). Kelly received a BBA in Marketing from Texas Tech University. While raising 2 children she taught dressage lessons, boarded horses and directed several equine programs off-site, including Miraval Austin and the Retreat at Balcones Springs. Kelly pursued her certification with NL beginning in 2013 and provided EAL and EAMH at South Wind beginning in 2015. She recently completed Leif Hallberg’s Master Class 2020, furthering her knowledge of equine welfare and behavior in this industry. Kelly has a true passion for both equine welfare and human healing using a holistic approach. Her niche is helping humans discover their authentic self through intentional mindfulness work, teaching others how to nurture their own spirituality with the help of her happy and peaceful herd. This year she published her first book, Unbridled Connection: Soul Discovery Through Nature and Horses. https://bookstore.weeva.com/products/unbridled-connection-soul-discovery-throughnature-horses

KERRI LAKE Annie, Rango, Lucy and the other horses in the article live with George Brauneis at Eagles And Wild Horses Ranch in Western Colorado, www.facebook.com/george.brauneis. Being with formerly wild horses offers people an unparalleled opportunity to experience authenticity, connection and communication from the inside out. Kerri Lake shares wisdom and guidance for humanity to live closer to the heart. Everything she shares bridges innate consciousness and personal experience. She shares with simplicity and humor how effective healing and effective creation emerge from the same foundation - the absence of judgment. She shares her own journey to help you see that if she can do it, so can you. Kerri is a "hands-on" facilitator, guiding individuals and projects to perpetually greater clarity and heart-inspired action. Her books, "Listen Like A Horse: Relationships Without Dominance" and "Spiritually Gifted" have an international audience that expands beyond the human-animal relationship, inviting people to generate a harmonious relationship within themselves. You can read more and contact Kerri at: www.kerrilake.com . Article photos credited to: Carter Keegan (Carter can be reached through Eagles & Wild Horses Ranch).

Page | - 34 -

February 2021


Contributor bios

Equine Leadership

KASEY THOMPSON Kasey spent his childhood with horses, but separated from them while receiving his formal education and starting a family. During a time of crisis in his life he reconnected and the equine has been part of his passion and purpose ever since. Professionally, Kasey is a past publisher, coach, and consultant who is currently the director of a 20 person organizational development program servicing over 2,200 professionals. Similarly, he and his wife Jennifer own and operate Equine Evolution offering multiple therapeutic and educational services. These programs have positively impacted thousands of individual lives, families, and organizations, through application of Proven methodologies for human enhancement. Horses, teaching, and writing have captivated Kasey’s attention as he has accumulated over 10,000 lecture hours during the past 19 years. He was also selected as a TEDx speaker and previously published multiple articles on the intricacies of human relationships. One being utilized as university level curriculum to improve teaming in technological development. In 2019 Kasey and Jennifer were invited as board members and equine assisted therapy providers for Ivy Ranch in Provo, Utah, a boys and girls ranch providing leadership and a school suspension alternative for Utah Teens. Educationally, Kasey received a BS in Human Performance Management from Utah State/Weber State and MBA from the University of Phoenix. His certifications include equine specialist, past StrengthFinder Coach, Seven Habits Instructor, Crucial Conversations Instructor, and Arbinger Institute trained coach and instructor. Contact Kasey by visiting www.equineevolution.org All photos in this article are credited to: Hadlee Jo Woodward

PAT HUTCHINSON Pat is a Certified Advanced FEEL Practitioner. She discovered the world of horses after retiring early from a management position in the Provincial Government. Having experienced the powerful effects of unmanaged, negative stress, Pat became passionate about empowering others to self manage stress in their lives. In the 1990’s, she developed and taught stress management workshops. She then recorded her workshop material so it was accessible to others without needing her to present. Also, knowing the effects nutrition can have on stress, Pat obtained her Bachelor of Applied Science in Nutrition. She practiced as a Nutritional Consultant until retiring early from the government. Pat intuitively and experientially knew there could be more to the horse/human relationship then ever suspected. She developed the knowledge and tools to access the ‘more’. Pat observed the horses’ innate strategies to manage their stress reactions. Seeing this in horses stoked the flames! Horses have a way of being that is so fully in the moment, a skill that normally takes us a lifetime to learn. When living from this place, a deeper emotional vitality, spiritual connection and mental serenity are possible. Horses teach us: self-empowerment, selfknowledge and self-respect through their willing co-operation and collaboration. And horses help us heal. Horse & Human = Power & Presence. Pat can be reached via her FaceBook page or email: pmshanti20@gmail.com

February 2021

Page | - 35 -


Equine Leadership

Contributor bios

JONATHAN VARKUL Jonathan is an executive coach and facilitator who specializes in resolving unexpected blocks in organizational strategy, innovation, and performance. His work is an integration of his practical business experience and his experience in exploring our deeper selves. As an x-technology consultant, x-corporate executive and a qualified chartered accountant, Jonathan understands the practical challenges of formulating and executing business strategy, innovating in uncertainty, and leading high performing teams and individuals. As a student of yoga, mindfulness, and the science behind our thought patterns, he deeply understands the dynamics and challenges in resolving blocks and increasing clarity. Jonathan left OPENLANE, a technology company that he helped build, in 2009 to answer a burning question. Can our deeper selves serve a practical purpose in addressing complex business challenges and if so, how? His journey to explore this question led to the creation of his coaching and facilitation practice that helps people access their deeper wisdom to address some of their toughest challenges without the typical time, energy and struggles of “deep personal work”. He was introduced to the deeper power of horses in 2013 when he met his partner, Jenn, www.jenniferschramm.com , a counsellor and certified FEEL facilitator. For further information about Jonathan and his work, you can check out his website at www.jonathanvarkul.com. He loves exploring the world through conversations with others and can be reached via email at jonathan@jonathanvarkul.com .

SAMANTHA THORPE Sam is Founder & Director of Equi Evolution, an EquineFacilitated Learning & Wellness Center in a quaint New England town, United States. As a teen she struggled with her own emotional health and found peace in the barn. Her empathy and compassion for those longing to find their place in this world are what drove her to launch the Equi Evolution program. She has over 30 years of equine experience, including work in Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding; but after completing her Equine-Facilitated Learning (EFL) Certification through The HERD Institute, she has committed herself to focus specifically on mental health and wellness. Her Equine-Facilitated Learning programs are based strongly on the principles of Gestalt Psychology and include a significant focus on Mindfulness and Connection-Centered experiences. In addition to her on-farm programs, Sam has recently launched the first of its kind online Equine-Facilitated Learning course, Finding Emotional Freedom with Horses, which applies the concepts of her hands-on program into an online format. This course has seen great success in sharing the benefits of EFL on a global scale. Sam also provides consulting and mentoring services to those looking to launch their own programs centered around Equine Assisted Activities & Therapies (EAAT) and mentors students and interns interested in learning about this uniquely beautiful industry. Website: https://www.equievolution.org/ Email: wellnesswithhorses@gmail.com Facebook:@WellnesswithHorses Instagram:@equievolution Page | - 36 -

February 2021


Contributor bios

Equine Leadership

ESTA BERNSTEIN Esta is the Founder of Saffyre Sanctuary, Inc. a horse rescue in Los Angeles, Esta knew that the horses were "calling" her to write a book and produce a film. However, it was not until a series of events that the subject matter of these works would reveal itself in the most magical way. As the author of Changing Horses the book, and producer of Changing Horses the film, Esta embodies the knowledge of why horses are here, and embraces the teachings of the horses that solidifies the foundation of all she does. Esta is an equine intuitive counselor and nutritional consultant. She grew up in the racing industry and has over 45 years of equine experience. She learned hown to rehabilitate horses when she acquired her own horse, Caleyndar. After years of researching traditional methods to heal him, destiny brought her to racehorse nutritionist, Frank Lampley, whom she studied with for over 20 years. During that time & even after the death of Frank, his supplement company still refers their clients to Esta for consultations. Esta is continuously researching and modifying her equine work as needed. Knowing that they are here as our partners, Esta uses her intuition and guidance from the horses to give them what they actually need, not what humans think they need. She is currently promoting Changing Horses and is available for healing consultations. Https://estabernstein.com https://saffyresanctuary.org https://changinghorsesthefilm.com All photos in this article are credited to: Robin Constable Hanson

DOROTHY CHIOTTI Dorothy’s journey with the horses spans a lifetime. It began with riding lessons at age 10, but it wasn’t until a wake-up call in her early 30s forced her to take a serious look at her life that she made the decision to work them. As a result, she quit a career in corporate communications and embarked on an 18-month coaching internship resulting in certification with Equine Canada (1997). After acquiring her first horse at age 43, Dorothy participated in the Train the Trainer program of natural horsemanship trainer Chris Irwin’s and became Bronze certified (2006). She also attended Irwin’s first Equine-Assisted Personal Development (EAPD) workshop that year which formally launched her interest in the profound healing with horses work. In the midst of her deepest personal healing work Dorothy became a certified practitioner of Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) at Horse Spirit Connections (2014) and achieved Advanced status two years later. In 2018, Dorothy presented Self-Awareness and the Quest for Sacred Space for the first time at the FEEL Alumni Conference and recently expanded upon this topic for the online Humans Connecting with Horses Conference (August 2020). She is a prolific writer and frequent contributor to Equine Leadership magazine as well as an award-winning photographer at the Equus Film and Literary Festival (2018). She lives and works with her husband on the family farm in Mono, Ontario. Contact information: dorothy.chiotti@gmail.com

February 2021

www.eyestoheart.me

Page | - 37 -


Equine Leadership

Contributor bios

GEORGIE McBURNEY BSc, PGCE Georgie has always had a natural affinity to animals and later in life got an opportunity to set up at Animal Health and Well-Being business. She realized the animal’s connection with the human, meant looking into human health and well-being too. Georgie studied complementary therapies to support both parties with Reiki, kinesiology, and Essential Oil Therapy. A pony called Jac came into Georgie’s life when she was a foster career, and he influenced Georgie’s decision to become an Equine Facilitated Practitioner and a Spiritual Counsellor. Working with people and horses preceded exploring ‘connection’ and she is now studying a MSc in Consciousness, Transpersonal Psychology and Spirituality with the Alef Trust. To find out more about Georgie’s work please visit: www.georginamcburney.com

VIVIAN EVANS Vivian Evans is an equine facilitator and spiritual mentor who began her journey with horses as a child in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was her passion to learn everything she possibly could about the horse and as a teenager harnessed her entrepreneurial spirit training young or problem horses and offering riding lesson, meanwhile developing her passion in the hunter jumper circuit. Later an opportunity to focus primarily on her riding career brought her to Kelowna, British Columbia. Building relationships with horses was always one of Vivian’s primary focuses and soon she realized that she had a natural ability to build relationships and bridge the gap of communication between horses and people. Her current career in Equine Facilitated learning found her and over the past 10 years she has been immersed in sharing the wisdom of the horse. Bringing her many incredible opportunities from observing the wild horses in the mountains of BC to speaking internationally. Beyond her work with horses Vivian is a registered yoga teacher, owns and operates a yoga studio in Kamloops, BC, and is certified Reiki practitioner, for both human and horse. And when not busy at work you will find Vivian spending her free time being inspired by nature alongside her horses and dogs. You can reach Vivian at: vivian@equine-evolution.ca / www.equine-evolution.ca

Page | - 38 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING AT ALL By: Jonathan Varkul, Canada

When I walk around the tall buildings of downtown Toronto, I can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of us humans. I look around and see throngs of people all busily going about their business, contributing something to the complexity and the grandeur of it all. There is a palpable hum in the air. I can feel all the people working towards accomplishing all kinds of smart and ingenious things, as part of something much bigger than their individual selves. When I stand in a large paddock on a farm outside the city, I can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of nature. I look around and see all manner of life engaging, going about its business, contributing something to the complexity and the grandeur of it all. There’s a palpable feeling of living in the air, and I can feel all manner of life working towards accomplishing something smart and ingenious, as a part of a greater whole. If we include our pre-historic ancestors, humans have been around on earth for approximately 6 million years. The modern form of humans that February 2021

occupy and build our cities has only been around for 200,000 years and human civilization as we know it has only been around for 6,000 years. The Horses on the farm, however, have been around for 50 million years. Our relatively shorter evolutionary journey has led us into a verbal world that has produced poetry, smartphones and modern medicine. Our words, although powerful, can complicate things. We can say one thing while thinking and feeling something entirely differently. We can hide behind our words and pretend that Page | - 39 -


Equine Leadership

something is true on the surface when, below the surface, it is not.

with our deeper wisdom that is quietly and patiently waiting for us.

Words that convey deeper truth, touch our souls and leave us feeling awed, can also confuse, manipulate, and overwhelm us.

As a trained accountant, software consultant and past business leader, I have always valued critical thinking as a way to address the challenges I face and so when I am struggling with a problem, I can easily become tied up in overthinking. The result is that I sometimes get more buried in my problem and a possible way forward appears almost impossible. At times like these, my partner, Jenn, (an Equine Learning Professional) tells me to “take my problem to the horses”.

The evolution of horses, however, has taken them deeply into a world without words. As prey animals in the wild, horses cannot afford to spend all day running at the sight of every predator – they would never be able to eat or rest. They need to know the truth below the surface – do you intend to eat me now? 50 million years of evolutionary fine tuning allows them to sense if a predator intends to harm them or not. If not, no need to run, and they can stand calmly right next to a mountain lion if it is fully fed. If horses could play poker, they would be both the best and the worst poker players. You cannot bluff them, but they also never bluff. This evolutionary superpower, to connect with the world as it is, and discerning it from what appears to be here, is the equine gift to our world. Equine Learning professionals work with this evolutionary power to help people discern between an actual issue and what it pretends to be. The horse, being the worst poker player in the world, does not hide what it senses. If a client pretends to be ok but is not, the horse can tell, and it reveals this in its behaviour. Horses can also be powerful co-creative partners, helping us become better attuned to a sense-based world. Their powerful presence can break through the noise created by our thinking world and help us acquaint ourselves to our own dormant sensing potential. Just standing with them in a field can take us out of much of the noise in our heads and connect us Page | - 40 -

The first time I did it, I was struggling with the stage of my business where my revenues were way less than my expectations of where they should be and I was spinning in my head trying to figure out what to do about it. I wasn’t exactly sure how the horse was going to help me solve my problem, but I went into the field and stood next to one of the horses, Astella. Astella is a powerful, athletic, bay mare. Although she does not know anything about business or revenues, she knows a thing or two about standing powerfully in her own space. As I stood next to her, I felt her imposing presence and my problem felt less immediate and less all encompassing. It was as if her presence itself was pushing my problem out of my head. Within a few minutes I felt myself standing up straighter, February 2021


Equine Leadership

my eyes softened, my gaze lifted, and I noticed the treelined in the distance. My problem didn’t vanish, but it felt way smaller and I felt way bigger. I felt myself feeling more powerful and I had this realization that my business revenues, although not where I’d like or expected them to be, were still perfectly normal for the stage I was at. I felt more relaxed and weirdly also hopeful and re-inspired to engage my business from where it was at. As we bump up against the limits of a purely verbal world to help us solve some of our biggest

challenges, the world appears increasingly confusing, confounding, and overwhelming. In the midst of our thrashing around to fit all the pieces together, the horses stand there offering us a piece of the puzzle. They show us that our being has the capacity to vanquish the noise in our heads and help us find deeper answers. 50 million years of evolutionary wisdom is standing right in front of us saying something deep, something wise, without saying anything at all. ~*~

“Horses can also be powerful co-creative partners, helping us become better attuned to a sense-based world. Their powerful presence can break through the noise created by our thinking world and help us acquaint ourselves to our own dormant sensing potential.”

February 2021

Page | - 41 -


Equine Leadership

“In the space of the horses we cannot hide from our emotions.” Jennifer Schramm ~ www.jenniferschramm.com

Page | - 42 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

DEEPER BY THE DAY By: Samantha Thorpe, U.S.A.

History of the Horse 5,000 years ago, began a love affair like no other You admired our size, speed, strength, endurance, and intelligence We admired your passion, commitment, creativity, and desire for connection Together, we conquered the world We carried you through the deserts and over the mountains You carried us across the seas We relied on one another for every need Travel & transportation, food & shelter, safety & love A revolution brought about the dawn of new era An industrial era Before long, you no longer needed us To carry you into battle To plow your fields To tow your supplies You stood on your own two feet and you thrived Yet, despite all your progress, you did not dispose of us There was still one thing the machines could not offer A void they could never fill You never forgot our contribution to humanity And we never forgot our connection to you

February 2021

Page | - 43 -


Equine Leadership

The connection between humans and horses dates back thousands of years. Once upon a time the paths of these two species crossed in a way that can only be described as a universal phenomenon; a soul connection. While the initial motivation may have been purely selfish on the part of us humans, we quickly saw incredible value in the qualities the horse possessed and grew to respect the willingness and intelligence of our new partners. Ancient Greek philosopher and historian, Xenophon, offered us one of the first recorded accounts of the study and interpretation of the horse in Peri Hippikes (On Horsemanship). This

carried people and supplies across mountain ranges and through desserts, allowing us to explore the globe in ways we had never done before. With exploration came new settlements, and as the breadth of humanity increased so did the connection to the horse. Agricultural development was supported, once again, by the strength and willingness of the horse, as we asked him to plow our fields, pull our wagons, and build our communities. Eventually, the Industrial Revolution began to replace the horse in many of these traditional aspects. Trains, cars, tractors, and tanks relieved him of his heavy workload. Each of these machines with a specific job, each one inspired by a job that the horse had already mastered.

“A SOUL CONNECTION” work is a demonstration of the vast amount of time and commitment humans have dedicated to the understanding of horses throughout the ages.

RELATIONSHIP As our relationship with these beautiful animals grew, so did the expansion of humanity. Horses carried us into battle. They so willingly performed intricate manoeuvres with such passion and devotion it can only be attributed to the mutual affection they held for their human counterparts. We built bonds of trust and compassion that ran so deep a horse would literally run head-first into a battalion of soldiers at the request of his rider. It was horses that

Page | - 44 -

EMOTIONAL

CONNECTION

We could replicate his strength and endurance, but there was something more about the horse that humanity could not capture in our machines. And although the need for horses to perform physical labor waned, the connection was never broken. On the contrary, we began to see new value in the horse that we had never fully recognized before. The value of emotional connection. Now, I am not saying this journey has been without struggle by any means. In fact, there is still widespread disagreement today regarding almost every aspect of equine care and training. But overall, we can agree that regardless of the dissipation of reliance on horses for February 2021


Equine Leadership

infrastructure development and sustainability, the relationship between horse and human is stronger than ever. As humanity moved into deeper and stronger technological advancements, we also began to move into an era plagued by trauma, mental health disorders, and exponentially rising suicide rates. The 21st century is experiencing a mental health crisis unlike ever before. In recent years we are finally coming to realize the severity our disconnect from nature is having on our wellness.

about the depth of connection we hare truly craved. I believe this is something we have always known, deep in our soul, but the concepts have eluded us until now. Within the last decade, the practices of Equine-Facilitated Learning and Psychotherapy, which focus specifically on the power of this enduring relationship, are booming in popularity. Equine-centered mental health and wellness programs are gaining recognition around the globe for their incredible ability to offer healing and hope unlike any other programs that exists.

NATURAL ROOTS Luckily, we have not been asleep at the wheel and the demand for transition to our natural roots is ever increasing. In 2000 the show Survivor first aired, and the reality series about survival in the wild was an instant hit. Soon there were dozens of television shows about living off the grid and connecting with our natural world. This desire to move back to the Earth and feel authentic connection sparked life and hope in so many. The demand for emotionally strengthening activities like yoga, meditation, wilderness retreats, and animal-centered experiences exploded as the benefits became more and more apparent. And with this explosion we came to view the partnership with our friend, the horse, in a whole new light. While the concepts of therapeutic riding and Hippotherapy have gained popularity over the last 50 years, it is the shift into recognizing the value a horse has, not on his back, but in a place of true equality on the ground, that has brought

February 2021

Thousands of historians, trainers, and scientists have studied and documented the journey man has taken with the horse. One of my favorite works, The Age of the Horse, by Suzanna Forrest, covers this journey from evolutionary beginnings through early domestication and on to the modern relationship we share today. Of course, the greatest lessons come directly from the source. We could spend a lifetime reviewing and studying these works ourselves, but the true learning, the true connection exists right on the farm. A connection that grows deeper by the day. ~*~

Page | - 45 -


Equine Leadership

Footnote: The use of the masculine pronouns he/him in reference to the horse throughout this article stems from a variety of subjective influences on the part of the author. As a woman, Sam expresses that she has always had a deep connection with her divine masculine and in such has held her strongest equine relationships with geldings. In addition, writing a historically focused piece, her inspiration for the descriptive attributes of the horse stem strongly from the image of the famous American mustang stallion, Picasso.

“We came to view the partnership with our friend, the horse, in a whole new light.” Samantha Thorpe

Page | - 46 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

A CHANGE IN PERSPECTIVE Looking through the eyes of a horse By: Esta G. Bernstein, U.S.A.

“There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse. ~ John Lubbock” No truer words were ever said. As we look deep into the behaviors and emotions of our equine companions, we discover a wealth of information about our own actions, reactions, and habits. As we go down this rabbit-hole, we discover how horses bring us to a level of awareness, including awareness of our life’s transitions. They can help us overcome the challenges that these transitions present. As we examine the energetic communication between our horses and ourselves, we see that they have always held the key for us to become comfortable with change.

CHANGE IS NOT THE END… IT IS ONLY THE BEGINNING Horses and humans are creatures of habit. Both species are very comfortable with consistency, February 2021

routine, and things that are familiar. Emotions and behaviors change in these species when their routines are disrupted. What emotional or behavior changes do horses go through when a herd member departs, or a new one arrives? When we are asking a horse to calm down, are we really speaking to ourselves? Are they our perfect mirrors when dealing with change? How do we step out of ego and realize that they are feeding us valuable information about ourselves? Based on my experience, the answer is “yes,” horses can mirror our emotions to a “T.” Within these past thirty years of my rescuing and rehabilitating horses, I have seen an array of equine emotions and reactions on display, based on my own mood when I arrive at the barn, as well as observing their behavior when new or

Page | - 47 -


Equine Leadership

familiar people come to volunteer at our rescue. If any of us are having an “off day,” we may be frazzled, upset, out of sorts, off our feed, and so on. Our emotions can run rampant when something in our life is in the middle of a shift. Many horses clearly do not like change, while some of them thrive on it. It is a very individual process for them, just as it is for us. Some of our horses are emotional rocks, waiting patiently for a cuddle when we feel more in balance. Some of them want nothing to do with us until we have recalibrated our attitude. What can we do to become more comfortable with change, especially if it is abrupt and sudden? How does our observation of horse behavior, as it relates to change, help us become more in control of our emotions and reactions? When I am with a horse and connecting to it from its point of view (a place of authenticity and nonjudgment), it provides me with opportunities to

see where my beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and thoughts need adjustment. As divine mirrors horses gently, or maybe not so gently, nudge me into an emotional shift so I can bring myself up to their level of compassion and understanding. As I try to behave more horselike, I have found that changing my emotions, behavior, and mind set, will be as easy or as difficult as I choose to make it. When I step out of my ego, and flow with my heart’s intuition, change becomes much more comfortable. Intuition is the main survival skill that horses, and all other species have Page | - 48 -

mastered. For us to become at ease with change, our left-brained human mind rationalization must shift to the back burner. Trusting my intuition is a lifelong practice that has become easier with time.

ACCEPTING CHANGE From personal experience, I know that change is something that does not have to be feared. For example, when we are with a horse and we have a negative experience, such as being hurt unintentionally by it, because we are not being present and in the moment with our horse, we may become reluctant to be around that horse. It is natural that our survival mode kicks in and tells us we should proceed with caution, or not do that particular activity again because we may possibly risk injury. These can be very real scenarios, and what we once thought enjoyable and safe might no longer feel so. Because horses (and some humans) equate change with something to be feared, in the most simplistic terms we can break down fear into three basic categories; 1) fear of becoming uncomfortable, 2) fear of injury, and 3) fear of death. However, it is our attachment to the material object (in the described scenario – our body) that causes pain and fear of change. While this pain is extremely real and necessary for our growth and expansion, it has a much greater purpose. This pain attachment allows us to be aware of our vibrational alignment, and how it can be adjusted so we can become a better version of ourselves. Being with horses teaches us to live in the moment. A horse’s natural default button is peace. They know all is well, and everything is in perfect divine timing. If we are able to move into that state of being, then we too will be comfortable with any change or challenge we are facing. This realization comes with the knowledge that the only thing we can truly change is how we feel.

February 2021


Equine Leadership

NEW BEGINNINGS One key piece of information I have learned from horses is that there cannot be change without some kind of death. The word death can be greatly misunderstood and feared as the word implies the end of something. It could be the end of a life, but it could also be the end of a belief, habit, or relationship. Being comfortable with an ending is essential to becoming comfortable with change. If we can transform our perspective, it can become a beautiful gift bringing us back to source; death can be viewed as a reset button. We are brought closer to alignment and that ending can be embraced and celebrated. Death can be seen as not an ending; it is just the beginning.

HORSES IN THE COSMIC PLAN We are in the middle of an amazing global energetic shift. We are at a turning point where

we have no choice but to accept change. What do horses have to do with this global change? My lifetime with horses tells me that the answer is “everything.” When we truly understand the depth of knowledge that lies within horses, the relationship between horse and human becomes a gift of clear communication, preparing us for the unexpected, seeing life through their eyes, while embracing how they can heal our deepest wounds. They bring us to our most vulnerable places so that these wounds are nurtured, and the emotions behind these wounds do not cut so deep. Having horses as our mirror for change is essential for our emotional and spiritual evolution. Change exists so we do not become complacent. Change is the label for the universal process of our life force, which is constantly in motion and here to assist every living being with their spiritual evolution. Just like the caterpillar that becomes the butterfly, we would never be able to see things on a larger scale if we do not get off the ground. Change is the launching pad for new beginnings, opportunities, and adventures. It will bring you to where you need to be. If you are having trouble listening to your own advice, listen to the horse within. Nevertheless, when in doubt, or if you are having a challenging day, hug your horse. They are here to change with us. ~*~

“As we examine the energetic communication between our horses and ourselves, we see that they have always held the key for us to become comfortable with change.”

February 2021

Page | - 49 -


Equine Leadership

“If we are ready, the horses are here to shift the winds. And they do it just by being themselves.” Lynda Watson

Page | - 50 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

SELF AWARENESS AND THE QUEST FOR SACRED SPACE By: Dorothy Chiotti, Canada

“Because of how much time we spend thinking about something other than the moment we are in science suggests we are running on default programs about 95% of our waking life. … psychologists believe that the majority of default programs … are dis-empowering, self-sabotaging and limiting.” Bruce Lipton, The Biology of Belief When was the last time you aspired to achieve a big dream only to lose faith and abandon it for reasons you don’t understand? Sadly, even our most noble intentions can be undermined by a lack of self-awareness. From that place of unknowing that influences all areas of our lives, including any desire we may have for creating sacred space, self-sabotage is born. There are reasons we act the way we do and believe what we believe, and often they have nothing to do with us at all. Until we step into self-awareness and begin to release the burden of old, toxic beliefs the desire for authentic sacred space, or any other worthy dream, remains elusive.

February 2021

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE All of us carry some form of emotional baggage. To understand what we’re dragging around it’s helpful to observe the environment, people and activities we attract. For we draw to us who and what we are and deflect who we are not. As energetic mirrors, horses can attune us to this understanding and the underlying emotions. They sense when we’re inauthentic and resist a connection with us until we’re connected to ourselves. And that’s the challenge.

Page | - 51 -


Equine Leadership

As children we behave like energy sponges and, unable to set appropriate boundaries, become an unwitting dumping ground for the dysfunction, despair and disappointment of those who influence us. The emerging field of epigenetic science also suggests we carry the energetic imprint of unresolved ancestral trauma/drama, including the emotional residue of every battle our ancestors fought; every hardship endured; every triumph celebrated, and on. It also suggests we wear the toxic traditions and prejudices that informed their

nothing is ever enough for us and we get sucked into the proverbial bottomless pit of need.

POWER TO CHANGE When we have the courage to shine a light into the dark crevices of our subconscious and poke around at the old survival mechanisms, we give ourselves the power to change our behaviour. Self-awareness is the only way to start healing and integrating a more dynamic way of life. The will to thrive must be stronger than our survival programming if we wish to manifest our purest intentions. In an effort to maintain the status quo the embattled ego will find excuses to hang on to old survival patterns. Our responsibility is to nurture it to thrive. There are three key areas in which we need to raise our self-awareness:

1. Personal ~ the internal realm … What subconscious dramas/traumas linger that inflict themselves on our outer world? 2. Intimate ~ the immediate space between us and others … How do these dramas/traumas manifest during personal interactions? What gets triggered? (Indignation/injustice; defensiveness/fear of rejection; etc.) Who pulls the trigger? experiences like a truth crippling straitjacket. How does this present? We defend the old family ways even when they don’t feel right, often to appease our elders and at the expense of our own integrity. Add to this our own stuff accumulated day-today, while negotiating the world based on toxic subconscious programming, and it’s little wonder life can feel overwhelming. The clash of disruptive energies amplifies a disconnect. In our vain attempts to feel accepted and loved by family, friends and co-workers, we become exhausted appealing to their debilitating nothing-is-ever-enough dramas. Consequently, Page | - 52 -

3. Environmental ~ the outer world … What personal drama/trauma is projected into, and reflected back to us, in our surroundings? Self-awareness ensures integrity behind the intention of creating authentic sacred space. Still, there are some threats to ponder:

1. Fear ~ Creating sacred space requires a shift from the lower vibration of fear to the higher vibration of faith. We do this by boldly exploring the dark void where February 2021


Equine Leadership

our personal monsters lurk; making peace with them and then letting them go. 2. Lack of intention/commitment ~ If the intention is to generate sacred space, we must be prepared to release everything that doesn’t support our desire to be authentic and thrive.

space in a holistic way. A soiled stall cleared one pitchfork load at a time creates a healthy living space for the horse. Similarly, the healing journey is a continuous mindful gathering and disposing of the old to make room for the new.

3. Lack of self-awareness ~ Only by identifying the root of our dis-ease can it be plucked out. Acknowledging anger, frustration, grief, sadness and depression as by-products of deeply held pain needing an exit strategy is key. i.e., What past/ancestral stories still influence how we treat ourselves, others and the environment? Awareness of the stories and buried emotions that shape us creates room for the healing process to unfold. 4. Doubt/weakness ~ It takes courage, strength and a sense of humour to get real with ourselves. Appropriate support as well as the desire to be you are important to having true oversight of the healing journey.

WAKE-UP! How does the journey begin? A family death, job loss, or serious personal illness, etc. often provide the impetus. I was 32 when the death of my maternal grandmother gave me a cosmic wake-up call. Within eight months I quit my public relations gig and followed a life-long dream of working with horses via an intense 18month equestrian coaching internship. Without realizing it my healing journey had begun.

MUCKING METAPHOR An appropriate metaphor that surfaced during the internship was that of mucking a horse’s stall. This seemingly unappealing, mundane task became a meditation enabling me to engage in the sacred process of clearing and revitalizing

February 2021

To cite a personal example, as a child I adopted the practice of invisibility to avoid negative attention. If no one could see me no one could hurt me. As I grew to adulthood, this well practiced, fear-based survival mechanism interfered with my ability to thrive. Years of personal work, including cognitive therapy and equine experiential learning have helped me to look at this piece of emotional baggage and engage in the ongoing methodical process of unpacking it.

SIX STEPS The mucking metaphor highlights six steps to establishing authentic sacred space. With each dig of the proverbial pitchfork, we give ourselves the opportunity for:

Page | - 53 -


Equine Leadership

1. Recognition ~ Identifying a toxic emotion enables us to begin to recognize it for what it is ~ the unhealthy residue of a past trauma or drama that needs to be processed and purged. 2. Separation ~ Having recognized the toxic emotion we can separate it from our “dis“comfort zone and mindfully examine what’s behind it. 3. Examination/Process ~ Asking key questions is crucial. i.e. Does a toxic relationship need to be ended? Is forgiveness involved? Does a bad habit/negative life pattern need to be changed? Does an ancestral trauma need to be released? It’s worth noting that the source of our dis-ease can be deeper and heavier than we imagine, requiring appropriate qualified help to process. 4. Disposal ~ Once the root of our dis-ease is identified, examined and processed we need to dispose of it. This isn’t a onetime thing. Much like the daily mucking of a stall, we must be attentive to clearing and releasing mindfully, and regularly, the back-up of negative emotions, before they get triggered. The more practiced we become at selfawareness, the easier the process and the more authentic our sacred space. 5. Composting ~ Properly disposed of organic waste breaks down to become the very ingredients needed to fertilize new growth. This is true of our emotional waste. The old stories and

feelings we process, release and compost become the fertile bed of wisdom that supports the ongoing journey. 6. Replenishing ~ Filling the void with fresh perspective is vital. Reading good books, meditating, embracing new, openhearted friends, listening to inspiring talks or music, etc. helps, along with our growing trove of wisdom, to establish the nurturing foundation for our sacred space. As an experiential exercise, a horse nearby can provide immediate feedback. For instance, one day my own horse Sophi, was in her stall with me as I mucked it. At one point she began digging at a pile of reusable straw I’d cleared into a corner. It was an uncharacteristic practice, so I felt into it for a moment. When I realized she was showing me how my busy thoughts were looking for problems where none existed, she stopped digging and turned to acknowledge me. Her feedback gave me immediate permission to let go of the mill of thoughts running through my head, and I relaxed. Horses can teach us to be present and more fully engaged with life in many profound ways. With the mucking metaphor we’re offered another experiential way to identify, meditate upon, and purge the default programming that perpetuates our self-sabotaging ways. Once we’ve made a commitment to release toxic behavioural patterns and nurture our authenticity, the sacred space of our dreams has room to create itself. ~*~

“…she was showing me how my busy thoughts were looking for problems where none existed, she stopped digging and turned to acknowledge me. Her feedback gave me immediate permission to let go of the mill of thoughts running through my head, and I relaxed.”

Page | - 54 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

RAISING CONSCIOUSNESS How horses help raise the consciousness of humanity By: Georgie McBurney, U.K.

A Welsh-Arab horse called Jac came into my life seven years ago. Having responsibility for someone else’s needs when there is a language barrier created an opportunity for my intuitive side to come to the fore. Meeting his needs made me question if I was meeting mine. In those moments of watching him, just being, I realised that I was just being and how calming that was.

As our time together continued, I became aware of our innate connection, and in this, a link to something bigger than ‘us’. He became part of my awareness when I was not with him, physically, and this subtly led to me following my heart. This ultimately meant following my soul path. If this is one horse helping one person navigate life, it is not hard to imagine how the collective herd can connect humans to a higher consciousness. It may once have seemed far-fetched to say horses are able to assist with raising the consciousness of humanity. Although, not since the coronavirus has humanity demonstrated

February 2021

what is possible from other parts of creation. Whilst humans were ‘locked-down’ on a global scale, we collectively became aware of how quickly our planet began to recover and, that coexisting with her is not only possible, but also crucial to our continued existence. Societies with a more community-based way of living were able to endure restrictions with more ease. Key roles that are essential to keep society working came to the fore (e.g., emergency, food sources, cleaning and refuse, transportation, and delivery etc.), and many started to be given the appreciation that was not always there before. Dependent on our beliefs on consciousness, it

Page | - 55 -


Equine Leadership

could be possible that our collective consciousness invited change from a growing dissatisfaction with modern life, and the increasing need to live with more authenticity and integrity. “I will not give a definition, for that would be less clear than the thing itself” – Henri Bergson.

includes anything we ‘collectively’ increase our awareness on. That could be matters such as climate change, black lives matter, LGBTQ and many other important matters. We officially increased our awareness that we are not the only conscious species when, in 2012, prominent scientists declared that a significant amount of non-human animals were conscious. Horses are not only conscious they are more aware of their relationship to the Great Web of Life than we are, and in their knowing they are showing us this connection. “The horse knows. He knows if you know. He also knows if you don’t know” Ray Hunt

Intuitive Art – Yvonne Battersby Consciousness is something we are familiar with, but it is still considered a mystery. There is no agreed definition, however it is commonly accepted as a ‘subjective experience’ that is unique to you and therefore not easy to explain to another. Consciousness is how we experience the outer world around us and the inner world within. Its functions are perceiving, desiring, willing and acting. Its structures are the body, mind, soul, and spirit. We have different states, e.g., waking, dreaming, and sleeping. We have different levels, e.g., conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. The phrase, ‘Raising Consciousness’, was first used in the 60s when a group of women began to share their experiences, of living within the patriarchal society, to the masses. Nowadays, it Page | - 56 -

Humanity is currently raising its consciousness. In ancient Sanskrit this is known as a spiritual awakening. The lifting of the veil of ignorance, which stops us operating in the lower levels of consciousness, of not knowing. It involves a recalibration, of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies, to higher frequencies. The patriarchal society that was the catalyst for the phrase, raising consciousness, in the 60’s, is now becoming more balanced with our divine feminine attributes. To be clear, this does not mean a matriarchal society. It means balance between both our masculine and feminine qualities: the energy of Doing and the energy of Being. For some cultures this could mean a big shift. It could mean a big shift within the horse industry, as horses are the embodiment of feminine qualities and it has not always been an easy journey for them within a patriarchal society. Reflecting on my own childhood, my more masculine attributes were celebrated by adults around me, and therefore by adulthood they were developed well. With that, I was very suited to my first careers in the police and Army. Furthermore, at this life stage, I was facing my ‘masculine’ journey; this is to say my outer journey into the world. I had a world map and used to mark places I had journeyed to, and all those I would like to visit. When Jac came into my life, in my middle February 2021


Equine Leadership

adulthood, I was experiencing a challenging time. My logic, self-reliance and strength were qualities that got me through this time. Conversely, there were moments where something else was required, like patience, collaboration, and listening to my intuition. An abrupt life change heralded the start of my ‘feminine’ inner journey. This was the time when Jac and I got closer, or more precisely, I realized how connected we were. I felt his support in honing my feminine attributes and began to communicate with him more easily. I started to realize the inner world was just as vast as the outer during meditations and other guided journeys inwards. Jac even appeared in one meditation running with the herd and gave me a feeling of joy. Later I went up to the field and was shown a video of the herd running around, with Jac leaping up from the ground and kicking out his hind leg. Jac’s joyful movements happened just around the time I was meditating. This gave me the proof I needed to realize the connection we have was not just in the outer world but within. “We are all spirits having a physical-body experience, so spiritually we are all connected” Jac During my work as a natural therapist (working with reiki, zoo pharmacognosy, kinesiology) I had noticed that animals were able to bring themselves into a healed state relatively quickly compared to humans. Additionally, some animals could not be healed if their humans were not included. When I worked as a counsellor (aka talk therapy), compared to equine-facilitated counsellor (aka connection), I observed Jac and his equine friends could shift blocked energy within a few moments of meeting a human. This would take many room-based sessions to even begin to get close to the block. It often felt like our use of language to communicate seemed to overly complicate matters, as we rarely say what we mean. Furthermore, talking often gets in the way of feeling our feelings. If they are not felt (movement) they are stored (stuck) in the body. Our body, our wise companion, whilst often February 2021

abused, criticized, and ignored by ‘us’, is perceptive, honest and the first to detect any issues. Horses can engage directly with our body. They encourage us to connect with our bodies and therefore our feelings. Horses also engage with us spiritually, reminding us of the connection to all that is. What they seem to bypass, by not using words, is our dysfunctional mind. As we come out of fear-based living in lower consciousness, we seem to be recalibrating from survival-fear to unconditionallove so our bodies can put out sensors for a new way of being in the world. Horses have always embraced this concept. They do not live-in fear of attack, they are alert yes, but relaxed. They are simply in the now and lead by example. To be in the now helps heal our mind from its dysfunctional state of criticism (the past) or anxieties (the future). Our minds are powerful tools so it is better to have them functional and working in harmony with body, soul and spirit. In short, I have learned that mindfulness is helpful to balance our masculine energies, whilst feeling the feelings is helpful for our feminine energies. Horses help us work with both. “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure” – Paulo Coelho

Carl Jung made reference to the horse in dreams as symbolizing personal power, mastery and your natural gifts. The horse can help you recall your soul path, as the horse is a symbol of remembering this, and having the courage to change your life accordingly. You do not have to have a horse in your life for this to happen. Long Page | - 57 -


Equine Leadership

before Jac, I was once contemplating leaving teaching and setting up an animal behaviour business. It was heavily on my mind as I was driving to school one day when traffic, on a fast road, came to a standstill. As I sat there, with anxiety about being late, a white horse came cantering down the center of the road. Police were called but they never found the horse. An animal sign from the spirit world as our ancestors may have said. I set up that business a short while later. In ancient societies, Shamans (community healers/connected persons), believe that everyone has a spirit animal that resides within, to empower and protect them. These spirit animals often change depending on what we go through in life, and sometimes we have several at once. If the horse is with you in spirt, it symbolizes unconditional love within your heart and encourages you to share your unique gifts and talents with the world. They do not have to be grand and on a global scale. When I journeyed with the horse to discover why I am here, my

Page | - 58 -

answer was simple. I was to experience life with my senses, to remember my connection to all that is, and to hold space for others to remember the same. My shamanic name is, ‘She who listens’, which I discovered after I had become a spiritual counsellor. My path was to heal and, of course, this has meant self first and then others. I was to share why and how I have had a strong connection with animals who have supported this journey.    It is said that if you are lost on horseback, give the control of the reins back to the horse and the horse will lead you home. I have found the same applies in the spiritual sense. When I have felt lost in life, I have handed over the reins to Jac and he has guided me home. Home being what is in my heart. It is there that I found my passions to share with the world. So, as humanity navigates a rise in consciousness, if you feel fear or you feel alone, just let go of the concept of control which will be immediately replaced with connection. Then allow the horse to guide you back to your unconditionally loving home. ~*~

February 2021


Equine Leadership

RETURNING TO NORMAL By: Vivian Evans, Canada

As the world roared to a screeching halt in 2020 many of us found ourselves unexpectedly on hold. The normal that we knew as a collective began to slip away, and the fast-paced life that many of us came to know and love, stopped. Time became abundant and, in this pause, we started to notice what was all around us. For some, the things we strived for or filled our schedule with, were no longer important. Others were left wondering what was really important.

Then there were others still who knew in their hearts that this was the time to retreat deeper into their roots. I found myself immersed in a herd of horses listening to the sweet whispers as they shared deep seated knowledge on how this is an evolutionary time. In past years humanity may have felt a sense of distant individuality. Our connection to community began it’s uncovering. Returning to really appreciating the simple joys, and those joys are what we are all made of.

February 2021

GROWING & GLOWING Spring. It is a beautiful transitional time. As soon as you step into the presence of the herd you can sense a lightness. It is comfort when the earth begins to glow, simulating a reflection to all of new growth. The horses begin to indulge in their spring rituals basking deeply on the warming bed of earth blanketed by the sun. I enjoyed this time as often as I could and would curl up on the ground with them. Feeling the sun on my face, Page | - 59 -


Equine Leadership

placing a hand on their shoulder, absorbing the heat and softness of their coat. The sound of deep breathing or sometimes, quiet horse chattering in sweet dreams, filled the air. I was lulled into an overall sense of well being, supported by the earth, safely connected to nature, to all. I watched trees sway with the whisper of a breeze that has circulated the earth millions of times. I was home. This is what home feels like. It is not unusual to find me seeking counsel from the horses, listening to their every whisper and observing every movement. I found myself with the herd more and more this year, craving the quiet stillness that sprawled across 150 acres of forest, fields and creek that this herd calls home. Ten horses make up the herd. Each one’s personality so uniquely different and in their own individuality they create a container with an abundance of wisdom to share. Frequenting the herd, I notice in the collective messaging a theme. I have learned to trust my intuition and listen to that quiet voice within. This spring, as I tried my hardest to receive some important insight, I kept receiving from each of them, ‘nothing here has changed’. A seemingly simple observation and insight that left me a bit perplexed, became a bigger revelation. As the horses often do, they held onto those deeper messages like a secret only released when ready to be revealed. Sometimes it was as though they looked directly through me knowing that what I was to learn was already within. A shiver of a feeling arose. The horses wanted to show the way to return to normal, and this wasn’t about the physical world.

NAVIGATING NEW CONNECTION In the city I would catch waves of people wishing things could go back to normal. On the news they talked of what is the new normal. Uncertainty and stress fueled the air, resistance anxiety, is this what we will be forever? A desire to want to Page | - 60 -

escape, to run, but not knowing what direction to go or what exactly was the threat. The event of a pandemic brought us together and apart. Collectively an awakening began. The knowledge that we are all connected began to spread. Impermanence is rattling to the core, and awareness began to emerge. This new world we were coming to now was one that we must become accustomed to. I decided to take a different perspective, that of a horse. What if I looked beyond the boundaries of the external human experience? Within, there is one thing that we all are longing for, meaningful connection.

APPRECIATING SIMPLICITY The herd continued to flourish. Spring fully sprung to life and the pure joy and happiness that filled the air was contagious. I was being guided to learn more. My pressing question; how do I navigate the world, as it is so different now? A teaching I would learn had nothing to do with the outer world, but everything to do with my own inner world. Part of me wished I could become part of nature on these days. Just disappear into her. The other February 2021


Equine Leadership

part knew disappearing wasn’t possible. So, alongside the herd I uncovered something more deeply seated, the feeling of where home is, within. We all have access to this space through awareness of our surroundings, appreciating simplicity, gratitude, knowing our individuality and being connected to community. We are all able to take great reverence in the act of simplicity or non-doing in order to uncover a place within that is a stable foundation to grow on. Our truest essence is always there, always accessible. Dr. Peter Levine calls this the felt sense, “a difficult concept to define with words, as language is a linear process and the felt sense is a non-linear experience. Consequently, dimensions of meaning are lost in the attempt to articulate this experience.” Throughout the year I continued to walk the forest, rest and meditate with the horses who willingly supported me. I shared these experiences with people who craved the same interdependence and noticed that more and more people who joined us needed the same experience. Client sessions with the horses

became about sitting by the creek, walking the forest and allowing the horses who wished, to join us and hold space. It took practice and patience to unearth a feeling of wholeness as a space that we can easily return to again and again, taking into consideration that we all must navigate the world through experiencing different environments. From work, to city, to family, and all of our regular activities, it was the teaching of how to return to that place of peace deep inside that many sought out. Outer influences can overwhelm, but here with the horses we are not influenced by an external environment. Rather we are supported to create, to explore the environment within, the felt sense. We all succumb to moments of anxiety and stressors. The horses are not exempt from this either. Rather it is about how to bring back the balance of the natural elements of the world to embody our physical experience. The horse is our greatest teacher; patient, kind yet firm, giving those nudges to find the most authentic version of who we really are. The horses remind us to return to simplicity, appreciating the greater world that surrounds us, leading with kindness and most importantly, staying connected to our own roots. As a great horseman once said, ‘the horse always knows it is right’. I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher when returning home to the heart alongside the horses. ~*~

“I decided to take a different perspective, that of a horse.” Vivian Evans

February 2021

Page | - 61 -


Equine Leadership

“If you are not strong enough to say it they will say it for you and with a silence that is louder than you have ever heard.” Jen Kotkin, www.jenkotkinpetcare.com

Page | - 62 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

THE MASKS WE WEAR By: Lynda Watson, Canada

In this present time, we are being asked to don masks for everyone’s physical health. Yet at the same time we are being challenged to doff our internal masks for our mental health both individually and as a collective. The horses can support us to remove that inner façade and emerge into a more peaceful and positive future. When I began to pen this article, humanity was still in the midst of what will forever be known as the event that defined the current generation – the COVID-19 global pandemic. Every human has at least one event that shifts their current paradigm. Examples of such past events include: 911/ JFK’s assassination/the moon landing, etc. The future is still uncertain as to whether the pandemic will remain on humanity’s shore for a while longer or finally head out to sea. Interestingly, someone asked me the other day,

February 2021

‘how do horses deal in times such as these?’. They don’t. This crisis means nothing to them in terms of their daily life. They adapt and adjust to their environment every moment of every day. How are they so adaptable? What makes them able to flow from calm to stress and back again so fluently? Three basic characteristics of living make the horses the ideal model for us to learn from at this and any time in our lives: Foundation, Flexibility and Fellowship.

Page | - 63 -


Equine Leadership

Before we go any further may I invite you to take a moment, breath deeply and enter the paddock in the imagination of your heart. A small herd of gentle horses grazing peacefully in the warm summer sun. You are supported by an equine professional as needed. Together you make your way to a small grove of trees and sit down in the cool shade on nature’s carpet of green. You settle in to watch the quiet herd do what they do best. Live in the moment, in tune with nature, their own energy and each other. This is their foundation. It is made up of five elements; that quiet strength on which they can live in peace while monitoring for safety, somatic knowing and listening, presence and awareness: all are important when living as part of nature. Horses are nature. They are not separate from it. In spending time with them we are brought back to nature ourselves. A place we tend to forget in our super busy monkey mind lives. They bring us back to the cycles of nature and of life; back to that which is real and ‘down to earth’. In that groundedness we come back to our bodies. Horses live fully in their bodies. This enables them to be aware of their environment and sense impending threats. If they are busy in the

past or the future, then they miss those cues. Only with pure presence and awareness in their bodies can they live a peaceful and aware life. You feel that peace and lack of stress as a calm sensation when you are in the field with them. In fact, many folks say horses are boring to watch. They eat, drink, sleep, eat more, play once in a while, etc. That’s about it. If you stick with it a bit and you will feel and welcome the peace within the herd. To be able to run if needed they must conserve their energy therefore their calm daily lifestyle is a necessity. Their days are spent gently and quietly doing what they need to do; embracing being who they truly are, horses.

Moving our attention back to the herd let us take another deep breath. Are you feeling that calm and groundedness they live in? It is right and good for us humans to try to do this as much as we can. It makes for healthy humans; stress free and able to release the monkey mind. As you are sitting in the field with the herd you notice in an instant that things change. It all happens at once; the barking of a dog, the flight of the herd, and your heart rate elevates. But as quickly as it happens it is over and the herd resumes its peaceful grazing in another part of the field. You, however, are still recovering from that sudden change in your world. This is flexibility. It is so relevant to what we have all been through over the last year. A good foundation enables the horses to be flexible without causing undue stress. Horses engage that flexibility for them to move to safety while not overtaxing their systems. Stress in the human world could overtax our bodies. Horses are different from humans in how they deal with disruption and we can learn much from them for future challenges we may face. One strong aspect of their flexibility is their emotional agility. Their ability to feel an emotion, learn from it in the moment, deal with it as needed (i.e., running from the barking dog) and then let it all go (back to grazing). If they had been holding onto past emotions, they would have not been able to quickly sense and move away from

Page | - 64 -

the barking dog. We humans know this all too well. We are not the best at letting our emotions pass in a healthy amount of time. We hold onto anger, sadness, etc. But we are learning, especially when we learn from the horses. Horses can face change and disruption on a daily basis. In the wild, the land changes, weather prevents movement in a familiar direction or resources dry up. If they are domesticated, humans cause disruptions to them daily. Most disruptions are not substantial but all create the need to be adaptable. The horses’ adaptability is the key to flexibility. Conserving energy, releasing emotions once they are dealt with and living in a peaceful environment of authentic fellowship is the basis of this adaptability.

February 2021


Equine Leadership

Bringing our awareness back to the herd, take another calm, slow and deep breath. Take your time. You find yourself in a different state of mind and body now. Watching and witnessing the herd, as a collective and individuals, has created unexpected sensations within. What is that feeling welling up inside of you? Is it connection? To the land? To nature? To the horses? Perhaps even to your true and real self? Don’t run from it, sit with it and the herd. As you are feeling this you notice one of the herd members looks up and slowly makes its way over to you. The others follow, but at a distance. You are overcome with a sense of peace and profound compassion. The horse seems to be looking directly into your heart. As quiet as can be you stand and allow the space for the horse to approach you on its own terms, at its own pace. In what seems like no time, as it feels like time has stood still, the horse comes forward and places its muzzle on your heart. What is that beautiful feeling that gently bursts within you? This is fellowship. Horses live in herds when they live in the wild or as close to nature as possible. Just like us humans they live in social structures. What is the difference? They don’t have wars. Their conflicts are settled quickly and they get on with life, quickly and amicably. They don’t hold grudges. They don’t label or judge and are 100% honest all of the time. What a model for us humans. The horses live in a peaceful and positive society, an authentic society. Horses are who they are. They don’t pretend to be something else. They don’t wear masks. The connections they make through their heart and their

gut are genuine. They don’t use words. That doesn’t mean they all get along. Some just don’t. But they are real about it. Horses set appropriate and clear boundaries in their communications. Their living arrangements are not fear based. They feel fear but don’t live in it. When living in nature horses are free to move and free to be with their mates. This is fellowship in perfect form. And when we spend time in nature with them, they invite us into that fellowship and we feel it in our bodies, minds and souls. When we feel that, we cannot unfeel it. We can then carry it back to our daily lives and integrate it into our daily actions.

One more long deep breath. Your time with the herd has come to an end for now. Your hearts are forever connected in fellowship. You leave feeling calm, prepared to better handle change and full of gratitude. You can express that joy through a heart filled thank you to your equine fellow sentient beings. They will feel your vibration of appreciation. So, what have the horses been doing during this extraordinary time in our history? Nothing, they have just been horses. And when we step into the field and look closely, that is so very much. In that consistency and calmness, they are able to comfort, guide and direct humanity, gently, into a future we never expected. A future we can look forward to. With horses modelling the

February 2021

concepts of; Foundation, Flexibility and Fellowship we are able to doff that inner disguise. We see that the world is perhaps not as polarized as imagined. We see how horses are showing humanity a better way to live by removing our inner masks one human at a time. ~*~

Page | - 65 -


Equine Leadership

Gratitudes With my utmost appreciation to: All who assisted in making Equine Leadership’s 6th Edition a profound & timely publication.

Our EL editor: Pat Hutchinson~Thank you for your time, passion and shared vision. Becci Godfrey, thank you once again for helping with those formatting bits. The authors that shared the journey of their lives, their client’s stories and to ultimately listen to the horses and share their profound wisdom. All of the photographers that captured the magic of the horses in images for this edition.

Stunning! A picture can convey one deeply resonant feeling that connects to our soul forever. A special thank you to the numerous models that patiently went with my crazy ideas. Thank you to Jonathan Varkul for that front cover shot that says so much.

And YOU, the reader. Thank you for hearing the horses. Most importantly, THANK YOU to all of the Horses from around the globe & beyond.

The Equine Collective Thank you for offering us a model of peaceful and positive living! #HumanityNeedsTheHorses

From my heart to yours, Lynda Watson

We would love to hear from you. What stories touched your heart? Do you have ideas for an article? Please email us at: Lynda.horsetouch@gmail.com

GRAEME GREEN (Author of inside front and back cover) Graeme has a broad collection of skills and range of experience in Equine Facilitated work. He has worked as a freelance facilitator since 2012. He now works as part of the team at Athena Herd in the UK where he is involved in delivering their Certificate and Diploma qualifications. Contact info: graeme@themindfulhorse.org

Page | - 66 -

February 2021


Equine Leadership

Without you I am Without myself, for it is Through you I see me

Penned by: Graeme Green, UK

February 2021

Page | - 67 -


Equine Leadership

“In the course of human history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.” Wangari Maathai

#humanityneedsthehorses Page | - 68 -

February 2021


Millions discover their favorite reads on issuu every month.

Give your content the digital home it deserves. Get it to any device in seconds.