EQUINE LEADERSHIP a model of peaceful and positive living for all
Third edition March 2018
"Let them clarify what needs clarification; heal what needs to be healed; teach what needs to learned. They have been waiting to empower us and to guide us. Let them take you where you've never been.....your Self." Pat Hutchinson
Editorâ€™s note Welcome
to Equine Leadership 3 (EL3). My name is Lynda Watson and I am the founder of this adventure. Let me start by honouring two amazing women who chose to walk the EL3 journey with me and collaborate to bring this issue to life. Becci Godfrey and Pat Hutchinson have been integral in making this magazine happen. This magazine would not be what it is without their expertise and heart. For their time and space Thank you! Each issue of Equine Leadership has been based on intuition, trusting the ideas and the horses that ask to be included. This issue is no different. From the beginning something said to focus. That focus: Mental Health and Emotional Wellness. In this day and age, it felt right to show the world how horses walk with us and model a peaceful and healthy way of living. The call for submissions went out and 13 remarkable and powerful articles emerged. Trauma experts graced us with in depth articles that look at what trauma is, the behaviours associated with it and how horses can guide us towards a healthier future. Healing with Horses, Finding Calm and Working with War Veterans all share how trained professionals work alongside horses to improve mental health for many people. Equine Rewilding shares with us a unique platform where horses and humans discover their true nature. Whilst success stories of two youth mental health equine programs from opposite sides of the globe; Building Internal Resilience through Horses and Horse Time Helps Heal the Hearts of Families, offer profound insight into building important life skills needed for youth to successfully navigate their world. On the other end of the age spectrum we have Senior Moments. What it is like when over 1,000 years of living experience spend time with horses? Magical! Another pair of articles explore grief. Honouring My Greif and Negotiating the Waters of Grief speak profoundly on this subject and how horses walked the journey through grief alongside each author. Compassion and the Mindful Horse presents a timely piece on mindfulness and compassion alongside the horses. Connection and Reflection is one woman's courageous personal story of loss and gain alongside a beautiful horse and the lessons found in their relationship. Yours truly closes EL3 with a look at horses from the equine collective and what we observe through The Window of True Viewing. With that said, I would like to wrap around to our opening article, Courage. I recently had the honour of meeting a talented and wise artist that truly has the heart and soul of a horse. Her words and beautiful pieces from her 'Grace' collection begin the EL3 adventure. I know each article in EL3 was written with love and a true honouring of the horses and the wisdom they offer this world. Individually and collectively. The world is a better place with the wisdom in each of the proceeding pieces. I thank every author, human and horse that inspired the words you are reading and YOU...for having the intuition and courage to open this magazine. It is my hopes that if you have not already, you will go one step further. Visit the horses and offer space for them to walk along beside you on your journey. You will be forever changed!
Horses show us a new (or very old) way of seeing life, leadership and letting go!
Table of contents
THE ART OF COURAGE 1
By: CJ Shelton
EQUINE REWILDING By: Georgie McBurney & Livvy Adams
COMPASSION AND THE MINDFUL HORSE 5
By: Graeme Green
HEALING WITH HORSES By: Sarah Schlote
NEGOTIATING THE WATERS OF GRIEF 12
By: Dorothy Chiotti
FINDING CALM By: Charlotte Bammer
CONNECTION AND REFLECTION By: Stephanie Chilton
CONTRIBUTOR BIOS 23 SENIOR MOMENTS 31
By: Adele Passmore
HORSES AND HEROES By: Sharon Clifton & Grace Lawson
BUILDING INTERNAL RESILIENCE THROUGH HORSES By: Jennifer Garland
HORSE TIME HELPS HEAL THE HEARTS OF FAMILIES By: Lindy Schneider
40 HONOURING MY GRIEF 43
By: Taylor Beckett
THE WINDOW OF TRUE VIEWING By: Lynda Watson
45 Glossary of Terms LEAP method – EFP/L Practitioner Training Program (UK) IFEAL method – EFHD/Equine Facilitated Human Development and EFPT/ Equine Facilitated Pychotraumatology (UK) FEEL – Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (Canadian)
THE ART OF COURAGE By: CJ Shelton I came to horses early on, with the love and fervor of many a horse-crazy little girl. From makebelieving I was Black Beauty or a cowgirl on my Johnny West ranch, to cheering on the racehorse Secretariat, my love of horses knew no bounds. I was constantly drawing and painting horses and while my parents tempted me with riding lessons, it was their spirit that called to me, not the need to control them. When I wasn’t able to see my hero Secretariat run his final race at Woodbine Racetrack, a mere fifteen minutes from our home, I was devastated. Pouring my heart out in a letter to Big Red, I sent it to Claiborne Farms in Kentucky … and something amazing happened. I received a special invitation to have a private audience with the big horse himself, a meeting that happened later that same year and was the stuff little girl’s dreams are made of. Fast forward forty plus years, I have fulfilled a new dream of having my own studio and gallery, I am still drawing horses and another Triple Crown winner has captured my heart. Two hours before American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes in 2014, I completed a small drawing of a horse head. I called it Grace, to honour all great horses that are surely touched by Spirit. However, a few days later, in tragic counterpoint to that, my fourteenmonth old grandnephew was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and “grace” started taking on a whole new level of meaning.
There is a proverb that says, “horses know our secrets, we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes in their ears”. As I began working on a larger painting of Grace, my tears flowed for our baby boy’s courageous battle. I wiped them onto the canvas and into the very paint on Grace’s mane and as the image came to life, it became my life-line, carrying both the hopes and dreams of the little girl whose hero was a champion racehorse and the woman whose hero was a child-warrior. Grace was followed by more drawings and paintings – Noble, Bold, Immutable and Humble – all illustrating qualities exhibited by my horse and human heroes. Later that same year a potential victory over the cancer heralded Hope’s arrival. But it was not to be … the following summer, now two years into the fray, weary and almost broken, Faith would usher in the greatest of them all, my war horse Courage. Today, anyone who enters my studio is greeted by the fivefoot high painting of Courage, who
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commands the room with a presence worthy of Secretariat and American Pharaoh. While Grace and the other paintings have gone to new homes and surrendering them has been an integral part of my own healing process, Courage steadfastly remains with me, by choice. As he greets visitors, his story reveals both my personal one and a greater universal one – the story of a hero on a quest. Courage is a mirror to all who see him: the war horse returning home after his knight has fallen; the angry, raging horse standing up against injustice; the horse facing uncertainty head on, one step at a time; and the gentle heavy horse returning to the barn after a long day’s work. I have watched in awe as people have shed tears, released their fears, recognized themselves or come to a realization in front of Courage, moved beyond words by something present in this painting that defies explanation, except to say it embodies that which is universally recognized. Courage - like grace, faith and hope - are what is felt, experienced and embodied by all heroes who must embark on a quest, willingly or not, to
face whatever life throws at them. A horse’s spirit is the very essence of these qualities and revealed every day in their demeanor, their feats of skill and bravery, their relationships with each other and their relationships with us. They are our mirror, whether real or painted. This past summer a new horse took its place beside Courage in my studio … Surrender. Born out of my champion’s blow and steam, he marks the next chapter of the journey with my spirit horses as he turns to bow his head to a Higher Power. Our quest will continue as new horses come forward to be of service, to both me and others, and although he has not yet arrived, I have seen the death horse, Transformation, ever beckoning. Grace, Hope, Faith, Courage, Surrender and the others stand quietly to either side, watching and waiting. I know this new horse, but I do not fear it, for I have all of those who have gone before to guide me, to mirror back my own healing and with the grace of Spirit, help others with theirs. ~*~
“Horses meet us where we are but do not leave us as we were”. CJ Shelton
Surrender, CJ Shelton
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EQUINE REWILDING By: Georgie McBurney BSc, PGCE, MBACP & Livvy Adams ReWilding generally refers to a worldwide conservation effort to bring flora and fauna back to places they were once abundant. We are interested in this concept but applying it to people; bringing back our wild self by disconnecting from consumerism and connecting with the elements and nature (external world) and our four-body system (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) (inner world). In counselling, the wild self is commonly referred to as our authentic or real self, our true essence before we were plugged into our society's systems, or had 'conditions of worth' placed upon us by those around us as we grew up and developed a self-concept that included limiting 'self beliefs' such as 'I am not good enough'. Our self concept is often at odds with our wild self causing incongruence. Horses and other allies from the animal kingdom give people 3 key things which help the ReWilding process; they are 'Congruence', 'Empathy' and 'Unconditional Positive Regard'. These, as psychologist Carl Rodgers coined, the 'Core Conditions' are essential for people to 'selfactualise' or grow towards their potential.
in to help people. Before they could help it was important to allow our horses and ponies to 'rewild' and become their real self. They generally live outside all year around so they can connect to the elements, nature and the land they live on. They live as a mixed herd so they can connect with each other in a four-body system way, physically through to their collective higher wisdom. We don't particularly 'do' anything with them; they are invited to just 'be'. We also applied the same ethos to ourselves so we are not causing any blocks to this work, then we can genuinely invite other people to do the same, to be their real self.
Horses easily tap into our four-body system and they bring things into our awareness, from our In our experience the ReWilding process unconscious to our conscious where we can happens profoundly when we invite our horses process them. They know when we are aware of something which we are blocking or hiding and they challenge our incongruence, which helps bring the real self to the fore. Horses also know when we don't know. I recall one of our geldings working with a a client, indicating physically using his own anatomy, that there may have been sexual abuse or issues in the clients past. She reflected blankly to his physical Horses challenge incongruence which helps bring the real self to the fore show. A year on our
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gelding received a thank you from her because he was accurate. She had blocked the sexual abuse out and had spent a year in counselling processing her past. Horses sometimes act out the energy they feel from people, like in the example. Other times they stand close to people, or invite them to lie down with them, showing empathy. Sometimes they come forward as a herd or individually. It is not uncommon to have people burst into tears, which can catch them by surprise. They then try to use logic to excuse their outburst. Horses challenge incongruence, so even the smile on your face whilst you feel anything but happy, is detected. We invite people to 'experience' and 'release' their emotions in the great wide open, whilst we step back and allow people the privacy to express themselves more freely with the horses (unconditional positive regard). Our innate emotions (anger, fear, sadness, joy) come from our more primitive part of the brain called the amygdala, whilst logic and thinking take place in our more evolved higher cortex. Emotions themselves are fairly transient, if they are allowed to be expressed. If not, they get stored up, can travel from our emotional body into our physical body and cause dis-ease. With suppression of emotions there is a risk of an uncontrolled explosion which can have undesirable consequences. When clients are ready to talk about their session, we are there. Talking can help bring emotions from the amygdala into the higher cortex for processing. This helps people stay in control of emotions and release in a controlled way whilst in a safe place.
another horse unprovoked behind her back. To address the behaviourist angle, this was unusual because the horse that was attacked is the horse that moves everyone else's feet in the herd. There was a look of terror on my friends face as I asked her to move towards me so she wouldnâ€™t be hurt.
As the experience unfolded later that evening away from the herd, my friend explained how she was out in London on the other side of the river when the attack took place. She had not seen the attack, but when she tried to get home, the roads were closed and she was exposed to the fear from people who had seen the attack. She had been really scared. She owned the fear from this experience and brought it into her conscious mind. She went to be with the horses again the following morning and they peacefully welcomed her and even invited her to lie down with them. She felt more grounded when she returned home to London.
When we are with equines, particularly outside in nature, we are reminded of our own connectivity to our external and inner worlds. This allows our wild self to come to the fore. A friend came up for the weekend to get Horses sometimes act out the energy they feel from people Sometimes to strengthen our connection, we out of London not long after the terror attack at need to unlearn what we have learnt to Westminster Bridge in 2017. She greeted each discover what we already know - we call this horse one by one. I watched as one horse Equine ReWilding. ~*~ suddenly turned around and viciously attacked
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COMPASSION AND THE MINDFUL HORSE By: Graeme Green Imagine that you had a deep and truly supportive soul-friend – what the Celts defined as anam-cara. A friend decent and honest enough to observe both our strengths and our flaws without judgement or bias. The Horse offers herself as an honest and compassionate correspondent who reads and responds to our complete communication, the real “who” behind the words. We often confuse language with communication, losing ourselves within the recumbent pathways of a maze of thought and word. The horse sees through this, she sees us complete. The author and Buddhist Monk Matthieu Ricard writes “Einstein said: “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest …... This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
other sound or activity around the space. No more than the subtle shift in our collective energy was enough to invoke flight. The stillness created was itself a communication, a shared and equally understood energy. Its shift created a reaction more profound than mere language might express, communication beyond our language, kinship beyond species.
Give and take On this path I do not set out to provide therapy – I create a place where people find a way to rediscover and perhaps re-establish themselves. I endeavour to provide a clean and open space, where we might start with offering compassion and loving kindness to the horse. In that act of giving we open ourselves. Together we stand in stillness, a silent space from which we observe, acknowledge and share.
Workshops create very strong meditative spaces that the horses very often choose to share. Our stillness draws them in. At a recent workshop we were following a meditation to quiet our energies. The horses came to graze freely alongside us. As we concluded the meditation, the group started to reconnect. Before anyone moved or opened their eyes, all four horses as one, bolted and took off across the field. There was no
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Compassion is what one might call a karmic emotion, what we give is returned to us. Bless and be blessed if you like. Horses carry such benevolence and a will to heal and forgive in their hearts, that when they return the compassion shared and for, the human, it can be enlightening and intoxicating. I was teaching a lady to meditate with her horse. She knew he was troubled and this troubled her. The horse was considered dangerous by many. We spent some quiet time with him and he opened-up to show us what troubled him. His reactions to our quiet movements were enough to expose his stressors. We let ourselves open to his communication and started to work on revised behaviours so that we could work with him without causing him anxiety. And in his release, came her release, she was able to face and let-go of her own confusions and self-
criticism which had hung over her since they had been together.
Mind and body together Our minds and bodies are incredible learning machines, whatever we do they are busy creating habits and patterns, integrating everything to mind and body and building routines which play back as the behavioural landscape around our words. Embodied expressions extending beyond the limitation of language. We have lost that intuitive literacy of our bodyspeak. But, the horses still read all. The somatic you. They understand the need for congruency between mind and body, thought and action. To quote the 13th century mystic and mentor of Dante, Brunetto Latini, “We are a book, and if we learn to read that book, we can read everything.” I was working with a physical therapist and together we were working on creating a shared quiet space alongside my own horse, Ernie. The client began to meditate but my horse’s energy did not drop. I asked what was going on. Together we explored the situation, and we realised that he was not “letting go”. As we worked together Ernie’s energy finally dropped and his head lowered. Not only did the client get to feel a real let-go, but he realised he had to do so similarly, with his colleagues.
Photo credit: PROJECT HORSES
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As somatic guides they shine a light on unconscious memories locked in our behaviours and actions. They hold the space where we might explore with safety. They also shine that light on those things we hide or push away. There one client found a child: “I found the need to listen to my inner child and let them show me my comfort limits”. Whether she found a child or a metaphor, who is to say? She continues: “I am hiding behind my mother’s clothing with my thumb in my mouth, whilst those around me vociferously demanded I remove it. They made me feel such guilt. I saw myself succumbing to
that demand and in so doing losing my compassion for myself. And now as an adult I stare into a void, when I connect with my compassion I connect with that guilt.”
Coming home The Zen monk and writer Osho says “Drop the idea of becoming someone, you are already a masterpiece”. We rarely honour ourselves or our experiences. We are not projects; we do not have to become perfect. Yet we treat ourselves as though we are projects. After a couple of sessions one client remarked: “I realised that it was ok to find time for myself. I thought that it would be selfish. What I found was that I ended up with both more time and understanding for others in my life.” Compassion needs to be targeted inwards too. We rarely treat ourselves so. Our internal dialogue can speak with a brutality that we might never accept from others. Neuroscience confirms that this critical voice is no less a stressor than external existential challenges. Goleman and Davidson (2017) talk of humans being “Primed for Love”. Meditating on loving kindness can shift our consciousness after as little as eight hours. Double that to sixteen and subjects have been noted to overcome otherwise intractable positions and behaviours,
such as unconscious bias. What better way to project loving kindness and compassion than to stand before a horse and silently offer from the heart. That act of offering to another can be the catalyst that we need. “I felt drawn to the older horse that was lying down. I could feel that to her, the act of standing was stress that she did not wish to place on her joints,” explained one client as she mindfully sat amongst the herd. Her eyes watered slightly as she then talked of her aging mother, and her own feelings of guilt with her mother’s arthritic suffering. As we see, the act of sharing compassion is one means of drawing us away from our tendency to judge and dispute, and so back to the moment. In fact, the regular act of compassionate meditation goes further. It is a path to meaningful happiness. Matthieu Ricard, cited at the beginning of this piece, has been declared by neuroscience to be “the world’s happiest man” after more than 10,000 hours of MRI scans by cognitive scientists at the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience in Wisconsin. There stands the guide, our mindful friend, the compassionate healer and our true anam cara. ~*~
“The horses know the answers. They see us complete. If we can recognise this then our comprehension expands. They are waiting in the moment. Their presence facilitates an opportunity to share compassion. We might start with them, but in doing so we might find ourselves there too.” Graeme Green March 2018
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HEALING WITH HORSES: Equine-assisted trauma recovery
Photo credit: Ryan Courson Photography
By: Sarah Schlote, MA, RP, CCC, SEP
Healing from trauma is a process that can be daunting, especially when there is a lack of traumaspecific treatment options available in a particular area. Survivors who have exhausted traditional talk therapy modalities and who do not have access to specialized trauma therapies often seek out alternative methods like equine-assisted programs to continue their journey of recovery, or to supplement existing trauma treatment.
Understanding Trauma and Attachment In spite of species-related differences, all mammals are attachment-based creatures with an innate drive towards affiliation. Mammals also have a nervous system that is capable of mounting self-protective responses (such as fight, flight, fawn, freeze, faint and fold, among others) to ensure survival, as well as discharging residual survival energy and settling into regular living activities again when the conditions support it. When mammals – including both equines and humans – experience chronic or toxic stress, a lack of safe relationships, inescapable threats that exceed one’s capacity to cope, or routine Page | - 8 -
defeat and helplessness when trying to engage in instinctual drives towards protection, nourishment or socialization, a number of problems ensue. These include, but are not limited to:
• Nervous system dysregulation: Instead of an easy ebb and flow between the stress and relaxation responses within a wide and resilient window of tolerance, what is more common is a narrow range of tolerance and a tendency to end up in hyper-arousal (fear, panic, anxiety, rage, mania, racing mind), or hypo-arousal (depression, exhaustion, numbing, disconnection, mental fog, dissociation, collapse, shut down), or to fluctuate between the two. March 2018
• Neuroception dysregulation: Neuroception refers to the mammalian ability to detect safety, danger or life threat and respond accordingly. Like the nervous system, neuroception can also go awry. Instead of rational vigilance, there can be a tendency towards hyper-vigilance (perceiving or anticipating threats when there might not be any) and hypo-vigilance (not recognizing the signs of danger when it is present). Similarly, boundaries can be too rigid or too porous.
trauma recovery is enhanced when the following elements are prioritized in order to come back within a window of tolerance: • Trauma-informed principles: Equineassisted activities that foster safety, consent, choice, voice, empowerment, trust, collaboration and compassion for both human and equines help restore vital elements that were missing as a result of traumatic experiences and prevent inadvertent re-enactments.
• Relational ruptures and insecure
• Trauma awareness: Educating clients about the nervous system, survival responses, secure and insecure attachment, and the link between trauma, mental health and addictions, goes a long way towards normalizing and validating the ways one adapted in order to survive. Horses, donkeys and mules are good examples of these concepts in action, and they model the importance of empathy and non-judgment as well.
attachment: When deprived of other members of our own species for socialization, or when others have been a source of harm, relationships are no longer the resources that they are intended to be. Either closeness or separation can be a source of distress, depending on the individual, resulting in relational survival patterns to try to mitigate the associated fears, such as clinging, avoidance, shame, appeasement and submission.
• Stabilization: Activities involving horses and other equines can support nervous system regulation both actively through careful direction by the facilitator and passively by being in the presence of the horse’s and facilitators’ nervous systems as sources of co-regulation. This is typically done on the ground, but can also be done through mounted work (regulation through rhythm) and table work (somatic touch or energy-based) in the presence of equines 1. Equine-assisted interventions can also involve the development of an internal locus of control through self-regulation skills, such as sensory grounding, containment, self-soothing, drumming, distress tolerance, present time orientation, mindfulness and selfcompassion.
• Management strategies: When we are unable to fight or flee, we can turn to a number of different behaviours in order to adapt or cope with our existing circumstances. Aside from relational survival strategies, these can also include addictions, disordered eating, and obsessive-compulsive behaviours (known as stereotypies in non-human animals), and so on.
Stage One: Trauma Recovery Best practices in the field of trauma treatment promote a staged approach, focusing on safety and stabilization first before doing deeper processing and exploration. The same holds true for equine-assisted programs as well. Even if the practitioners leading the program are not therapists, trauma survivors can nonetheless benefit from programs that provide experiential learning in the presence of horses and other equines. Whether therapy or learning-based, March 2018
these require specialized training to practice safely and skillfully
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• Safety and relational repair: Observational, approaching, active and reflective exercises with horses offer opportunities for present moment awareness; mutually beneficial, attuned and responsive relationships with the animals where both have a chance to “feel felt” and “get gotten”; and the ability to more accurately read body language and situations.
• Accessing resources: Resources are not just about building tolerance for distress and grounding skills that support calm and relaxation, but about connecting with a sense of aliveness, authenticity and playful energy. For some, this is part of stage one work while for others this is possible as a result of stage two and three work.
Stage Two: Trauma Processing
Observing how the human facilitators treat and respond to the animals’ needs and body language in the program also helps restore a sense of people as potentially trustworthy, in that facilitators ensure the growth and integrity of one does not come at the expense or coercion of the other. These “corrective emotional experiences” help recalibrate one’s gauge for safety and danger in relationships and in the world and help build a sense of object constancy (trusting that relationships continue to exist even when there is physical separation).
This is an area of equine-assisted trauma recovery that is less well-known but is gaining more attention. Practitioners are now incorporating EMDR® (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Somatic Experiencing®, polyvagal theory, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy®, Self-Regulation Therapy®, Gestalt therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, Family Constellations, the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, the Structural Dissociation and Internal Family Systems® models of parts work, and other trauma and attachment-oriented approaches and frameworks into equine-facilitated practice.
Interacting with horses in particular can also support greater awareness of attraction and aversion impulses, body sensations, and emotions, which can in turn support the exploration of boundaries and interpersonal dynamics. Safety also includes horse-based experiences that lead to new core beliefs that are more accurate and life-affirming about oneself and
These approaches are crucial in helping resolve traumatic memory, body memory, deeper attachment and shame-related issues, more severe fragmentation of the personality, and other complex challenges in order to widen the window of tolerance. It is important to note that some of these therapies also can be used for stage one and stage three work as well and are not exclusive to stage two processing. Trauma processing can occur on the ground, through mounted work, and on the table in the presence of equines as well.
These “corrective emotional experiences” help recalibrate one’s gauge for safety and danger in relationships and in the world and help build a sense of object constancy.”
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Stage Three: Integration and Reconnection This final phase looks towards the future, exploring post-traumatic growth, redefining one’s identity, navigating transitions, exploring new meaningful relationships, and finding ways to transfer skills learned in equine-assisted programs into everyday life. With more regulation on board, more solution-focused March 2018
equine-assisted interventions and those that focus on spiritual expansion are possible when the brain is not operating from lower regions focused on survival and is instead available for cognitive reasoning, problem solving, creativity, and vision planning. These stages are not always linear, and movement often occurs back and forth between them. Indeed, in equine-assisted interventions there is often a focus on stage one and stage three elements, especially when stage two work is not within the scope of the facilitators. This does not mean that stage three work canâ€™t be useful if stage two work has not taken place; however, it does mean that certain clients will not be able to fully experience or integrate the benefits of stage 3 work if there is significant unresolved trauma. The fact that equines can be included in all stages of trauma recovery, however, is remarkable and speaks to the
unique gifts and power of programs that support healing with horses.
Researching Options All approaches to equine-facilitated practice have something to offer those affected by trauma and its associated mental health and addictions challenges. However, not all programs are trauma-informed or offer specialized trauma-specific treatment. It is important to research what options are available to see what might align well with oneâ€™s goals, values, and needs. One list with questions to consider when evaluating a program is available here: https://equusoma.com/client-services/selectequine-therapy-program/ This list is not exhaustive but is meant to provide a starting place when exploring programs that might be a fit. ~*~
Photo credit: David Karaiskos Photography
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NEGOTIATING THE WATERS OF GRIEF By: Dorothy Chiotti
"Grief is the last act of love we have to give those we have loved. Where there is deep grief there was great love." Anonymous
It's said that the act of grieving is like being hit by an enormous wave, or drowning in a deep ocean. Considering our emotions are mutable, flowing and changing from one moment to the next, this comparison seems entirely appropriate. Like emotions, water ebbs and flows according to the energy to which it is subjected. Since the human body is composed of up to 90% water this analogy is even more intriguing. For in effect each one of us is our own body of water ~ a continuously moving physiological sea inhabited by emotional creatures subject to the disturbances of outside events and environment. Since the passing of my heart horse, Bear, this past November, I've been negotiating the waters of grief. Introspection has led me to take the ocean metaphor one step further, something I'll explore in this article. Much as an earthquake strikes without warning, loss cannot be predicted. It rattles our world and in the process generates a swell of grief that rolls through our waters destabilizing and disorienting us in its wake. We lose our bearings. Our thoughts become muddled. We feel overwhelmed; vulnerable; fragile. Our deepest fears and anxieties re-awaken. How we ride this unnerving wave determines whether we'll return to calmer waters or forever flounder in the dark depths inhabited by our unmet and unconsciously hidden emotional sea monsters.
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In recent years science has demonstrated that water records and saves information; that it has memory. Dr. Masaru Emoto, respected scientist, researcher and best-selling author, (www.masaruemoto.net) discovered that water is deeply connected to our individual and collective consciousness. His experiments proved that energy and intention, individually and collectively, can alter the molecular structure of water for good or ill. e.g. With a powerful microscope and camera, Emoto showed that water molecules intentioned with love or gratitude altered to resemble beautiful, symmetrical crystal shapes ~ much like a snowflake. Conversely, water molecules intentioned with hate disintegrated into an ugly mass. Further proof that whatever we project, intentionally or absently, purifies or poisons our inner and outer environments.
Bear died Tuesday, November 21, 2017. Gone in a flash due to 1 torsion colic. This was the earthquake that shattered our world.
Shakespeare (Bear) So, how does this apply to grieving? Loss, like an earthquake, is a powerful change agent and grief is the potent swell of energy it generates that changes us. This overwhelming force manifests anger, fear, betrayal, denial, etc. which, if indulged unhealthily or not appropriately resolved, can lead to deep depression and dis-ease. Alternatively, wading grief's troubled waters in the moment and with love, promotes healing and closure. In other words, over time our waters become still again. Allow me to illustrate with my own recent experience of loss.
Dream horse Shakespeare (Bear) was my first horse; my dream horse; my heart horse. When he arrived almost 12 years ago I was 43, out of work, and beginning a mid-life transition. I was finally in a position to realize my life-long dream of a horse to call my own. Over the years, through training and experience, I built a bond of trust with Bear that supported us along our shared path. I had big plans for us to help heal lives and, of course, anticipated that we would grow old together. However, life had other plans.
Grief rolled through my body of water the next morning. After a restless sleep I awoke early. My head hurt. My heart ached. I felt nauseous. My disrupted emotional waters ebbed deep into the recesses of my broken heart and flowed back in a deluge of despair. Too powerful to be contained within its usual shores, salty tears spilled down my cheeks. A plume of shock vomit released pressure. Still, that first day the wave rolled over and over trying to reestablish balance within the context of a harsh new reality. With each swell emotional debris polluted the love-imbued waters that had held Bear and I for so long. I felt overwhelmed; exhausted, and this continued in gradually dissipating waves as the days passed. As soon as I felt able I scrambled back to a routine. Spending time with Sophi, my other horse, helped to ground me, as she needed me to be grounded. She had lost Bear, too. This mutual loss deepened our relationship. About the third week I noticed a pattern. Each Wednesday following the initial swell of grief an echo of that original disorientation rolled through. If I attempted to push through it I felt overwhelmed and debilitated. Recognizing the pattern allowed me to adapt my mid-week routine to one of gentle self-care and reflection. As the echo continued to weaken I realized this break worked well for me, so I incorporated it into my new life without Bear.
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Of course, each person's experience of grief will be different. Our emotional conditioning, life experience, etc. largely determine how we negotiate those unsettled waters. Still, common to all is the fact that grief dredges the depths of our consciousness asking us to recognize, resolve and release those dysfunctional elements of our lives that pollute our waters. It also asks us to heal mind, body and spirit so the turbulent waters can be made still again. An open heart and mind is key to negotiating our way through the waters of grief. Something else I've discovered is that finding a constructive way to honour the memory of the deceased helps to distil the waters and allows us to move on. After my grandmother's death over 20 years ago I vowed to honour her memory by living my best life. I can thank my gran for the wake-up call I needed to start down the healing path. With Bear, I honour the many important
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lessons of self-awareness he facilitated. This helps me keep my energy focused on the path of light and healing. It's been two months since Bear's departure, and while the swells of grief still roll through my body of water, they're also fading. I miss my dear equine friend, but take comfort in knowing that by being fully present and honouring his memory as an act of love, and focusing on extra self-care on Wednesdays when my waters feel disrupted, I can move on while holding Bear forever in my heart. ~*~ 1
Torsion is one of the more severe forms of colic, and occurs when the large colon displaces and twists 180 to 360 degrees. â€Ś Source: https://horsecanada.com/magazine_articles/unravelling -the-mysteries-of-colic/
FINDING CALM By: Charlotte Bammer, RP
Photo credit: Ruth Roberts It seemed to drizzle a cold clumpy rain the entire day during an open themed workshop with a group of women in the fall of 2014. Surprisingly the weather on this day acted as a trigger for one of the women, Jane*. It took her back to her childhood, of being cold and wet while her mother dragged her from door to door trying to convert people to their faith. In the beginning, she would voice her needs, but eventually after being ignored she fell silent. Her motherâ€™s choice to convert would influence the rest of her life. On this day, it came rushing back all at once while she connected with a young mare named Anunciada, Anna for short. Their process began before they got into the round pen together. Anna paced around the gate, throwing her head, stomping and showing frustration calling out to Jane. Every time Jane would approach she would leave. Jane would wander away and again Anna would stomp and clearly want Jane to come over.
Once it was time to start her session Anna was brought into the round pen. When Jane approached, Anna would barely let her enter. The dance started anew once Jane was in the center of the pen. Anna would approach, embrace Jane then look away, wander off and come back. So, I asked Jane how she was feeling and she said she felt frustrated (Anna mirrored this by shaking her head and showing signs of frustration.) Jane just wanted to know what
* All names changed to protect privacy March 2018
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Anna wanted from her. I asked what she wanted and she said she wanted connection, for people to be there when she needed them, to stop abandoning her. She said she felt angry. I asked her if she had ever voiced her anger before and she said no. She was fearful that Anna would get angry and run her over if she did. We talked a little about how horses value congruency, that it is when we are being incongruent that they feel fear. If we are honest with our anger it is actually a safe space for them as long as we are not physically venting our anger at them. While we were conversing, Anna moved around the outside of the ring giving Jane space. Jane’s anger started quietly at first, but as she gained momentum her voice grew louder and louder until she was screaming her rage at the world. At his point, Anna stood watching and waiting, completely focused on Jane in the middle of the circle as she began to say the things she had never said before. Anna dropped her head and released a giant sigh as Jane finally found her voice.
Angry She was angry that her father didn’t stand up for his daughter and protect her from his crazy wife. How everything, Christmas, the snow, the cold stopped at the age of five. It all became meaningless. How she just wanted to be a kid and watch her Saturday morning cartoons and not try to convert people because the world was coming to an end. She was angry that when she finally knew that there was no God and that she needed more than ever, her entire community treated her like she had died. How she had suffered abuse from an elder in that community. How she wants people to be with her through the darkness. She kept voicing her anger, until Anna came and nudged her. I asked her to get
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the body involved; what would the body do to voice the anger? She was stomping mad in the mud, and then she said, “I just want people to see me, to witness and be in the mud with me.” The gates came down and sorrow poured out as exhaustion took over. At this point, Anna came to the gate and very clearly was trying to pull us into the pen. All of us, the two practitioners and the other women in the workshop followed Anna into the pen. Anna took each one of us, one at a time and placed us around Jane. She re-arranged us until she was happy with where we all were; walking a circle around us as we supported Jane and kept her upright. Anna came in and gently laid her head against Jane’s heart and allowed her to collapse over and hug her face. We all stayed that way until the grief was finished. Jane had connected deeply to a need that had not been met; she realized that through her choices she was reliving the same story over and over. She knew she was ready to change the story and wanted to create relationships in her life that were healthy and didn’t mirror the old pain. Whenever there is complex trauma present in a person’s history it becomes extremely important to evaluate and work on their ability to maintain calm.
HorseTouch Equine Photos
Complex trauma is a mix of Big ‘T’ trauma and little ‘t’ trauma. Big T traumas are large events that a person can’t tolerate, and little ‘t’ trauma happens when there has been a missattunement by people around us that hasn’t been fixed or addressed. Calm builds our window of tolerance and allows us to maintain a state of non-dissociation. We all dissociate in our own way. We all have ways that we avoid our emotions, or situations that are happening; be it through fantasy, numbing out, or at worst addicting to name only a few.
The horses are amazing at allowing participants to temporarily borrow their nervous systems; they allow us to remain present with our experiences rather than in trauma time where we relive our trauma’s. The horses allow us to process through our memories in a productive way rather than looping so that we can move forward. They teach us calming resources and skills to “go back to grazing.” If you have witnessed natural horse behavior then you will have noticed this particular resource before. A horse that goes through a trauma will shake its entire body as if to dislodge the emotional, mental and physical residue of the experience at which point they will go back to grazing. In every session; like in the one where Jane worked through some of her own complex trauma, the ability to remain and or return to calm becomes very important. In some of the most intense moments of Jane’s rage, Anna remained calm and attentive, by the end of the session Jane herself was able to reach an incredibly deep place of calm and self-
compassion in which she was finally able to witness her past and gain perspective on her life. I had a male client, Mike, who lived in a state of hyper-vigilance for most of his life; he would remain rigid and tense in his body, always hyper-aware of and mistrusting his surroundings. This greatly decreased his window of tolerance and gave him a false sense of security, readiness and connection. This client felt drawn to learn from Chance, a fiery Chestnut horse who is incredibly sensitive. At first Mike did absolutely nothing and Chance stayed on the fringes sensing the tension within Mike. Mike was confused and felt rejected. I asked if he ever allowed himself to be vulnerable and approach first. With some thought the client shared that no, he would never do that and would often expect other people to do all the work, which they never did. He gave it a try and blustered up to Chance and rigidly and quickly reached out to touch him. Chance shied and jumped away and wouldn’t go near him. Mike became very triggered and felt completely abandoned and rejected. He didn’t understand.
Reverse it I asked the client to reverse it; what would he like when people approach him, what would Mike need. He started to think about it and he realized he would want to feel safe, connected and like he could trust. We did some somatic exercises to explore body language and he became aware of his own tension. Mike started to consciously relax his body. He slowed his breathing and all of a sudden Chance started to turn in more and look at him. Mike calmed further and slowly approached, now tuning into Chances needs rather than his own. He noticed when Chance would flinch, so Mike would stop moving. At the half way point Chance, feeling this new level of calm attunement came right up to Mike, covering the
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rest of the distance. The rest of this session was in complete silence as Mike and Chance calmly connected to one another. It was absolutely beautiful. Mike related afterwards how, when he finally allowed himself to surrender, and trust being calm, Chance then participated in the relationship with him. He didnâ€™t feel abandoned anymore. No matter the lesson, the level of trauma or the case history of the client, calm is always the corner stone of healing. It is where we begin and it is what the horses help us to remember. Somewhere along the way most of us lose our connection to our deep, innate sense of calm or
contentment. Over and over the horses remind me of its importance. Whenever I enter into a relationship with a horse in whatever capacity it happens to be, it becomes very obvious from which feeling state I am approaching them and myself. There is always more flow, connection and ease when that state is birthed out of calm. I now try to integrate this into my own life and into my private practice. It is always amazing to see clients integrate into their own lives the various learnings, and the amazing ripples calm really has, as they connect deeply to themselves through the horse partner that called to them. ~*~
HorseTouch Equine Photos
â€œNo matter the lesson, the level of trauma or the case history of the client, calm is always the corner stone of healing.â€? Charlotte Bammer Page | - 18 -
CONNECTION AND REFLECTION By: Stephanie Chilton Ten years ago I strode confidently into my new career as a teacher. Shortly after, I was pitched into a drawn-out battle with infertility, culminating in high functioning depression and anxiety. In an attempt to self-medicate with exercise, I returned to horses after a ten-year break. However, it soon became apparent that horses had so much more to give. I found infertility incredibly isolating and a difficult problem to share. I felt utterly alone and craved a meaningful connection with others. I was part-loaning a mare called Mindy who had a wonderful bond with her owner that I greatly admired. When her owner put Mindy in foal, I began the search for an equine partner of my own. Paddy, a quirky black cob, entered my life with important lessons to impart. I began to learn that horses hold a mirror up to your state of mind. Three years along my infertility journey, my mental state was heading in an unhealthy direction. Working with Paddy, I repeatedly ignored his warning bunny hops, persistently pushing him towards my preferred path. Eventually he lost his patience and I ended up high on gas and air in the back of an ambulance. My recuperation prompted me to reflect on the dangerous turn my thought patterns had taken. I almost welcomed the idea of being hurt...or worse. What possible purpose could my life have now? A pregnant friend recently commented, ‘Bringing a new life into the world – if that’s not what life is all about then I don’t know what is’. I needed to find out. Feeling distanced from everyone, including my husband, I longed for the bond I had witnessed between Mindy and her owner. In preparation, I took ground work lessons and was lucky to meet Pongo, a spotty, hairy Shetland with opinions of his own. At that time my thoughts were fixated on grief or focused on blocking it out with work. Pongo held up a mirror to my
mental state. I was learning to direct my energy and intention to protect my space and influence his movements...with varying degrees of success.
Depleted Taking time out of teaching and grieving and spending it with Pongo, I noticed a correlation between ground work success and my own energy. My mood was reflected in his reaction to me. When I was drained and exhausted, he would put in minimum effort; when I was full of internalised anger – never aimed at him - he exhibited eye rolling and tail swishing. It was the first time I noticed the negative impact the stress of teaching and infertility was having on my effectiveness in the world. I was so depleted I had little left to give! Taking this on board, I took steps towards self care and self control. Our interactions became less confrontational and more fluid - if you can imagine a fluid Shetland! My teaching days became increasingly full: lesson preparations, assessments, lesson observations, judgements, criticisms, meetings, pressures. There was no time to rest or reflect. Entire days were spent reacting in the moment and rushing from one thing to the next. As Pongo taught me self-awareness, I noticed how hungry, thirsty, tired or ill I felt by the end of each working day. My body became habitually hyped by the constant flood of adrenaline, making it impossible to switch off. Driving home from work each day, my stomach muscles were permanently clenched. I would go to bed with a
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throbbing head and aching eyes, mentally going through the list of preparations I needed to achieve before the morning bell signalled the onslaught.
and power reminded me that perhaps there were still joys to be found in life despite the sorrow. I took the loan of course, and a year later I bought her. I kept Indie on a livery yard on my route to work. Instead of driving straight home with the events of the day still on my mind, I would go straight to Indie. Some days all I had time to do was settle her in for the night, and yet even those moments in her presence transformed my evenings. Whatever might have happened in Indie’s day or mine, she was always calm by the time we stood on a fresh bed of straw in the stable, Indie munching rhythmically on her hay while I groomed her. Sometimes I would be sobbing from the pressures of the day and she would breathe on me but otherwise let me be; company but no pressure. Describing the research of the HeartMath Institute, Lisa Walters and Dr. Ann Baldwin (www.equusatori.com/wordpress1/?p=206) explain how being in the presence of horses was found to have the effect of smoothing out the Heart Rate Variability (HRV) in humans. As the brainwaves begin to sync with the HRV, stress hormones drop and good mood hormones flood in, leading to a state of coherence. I certainly feel that being in Indie’s presence had a calming influence on my state of mind.
When Indie came into my life, all this began to change. I had long dreamed of Friesians but in the end Indie found me. I had all but given up my search when Indie’s owner got in touch about a loan. I was imagining a smaller horse that was safe and sane, a “been there, done that” type. Indie was a chunky 15.2hh with a dislike for tractors who had been known to bolt in fear. However, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to meet a Friesian. When we met she lowered her head with such grace and presence, greeting me gently with her nose. I experienced the first burst of joy I had felt in a long time. Such beauty Page | - 20 -
Walters and Baldwin describe how a state of coherence facilitates expanding awareness and personal growth through gaining a new perspective. For me, spending time around the right horses has created a mindset open to contemplation and self-revelation.
I certainly feel that being in Indie’s presence had a calming influence on my state of mind. March 2018
With Indie I have found the mutual partnership that I set out to discover. She has taught me many lessons but one in particular stands out. Time and again she reminds me that the most important ingredient in effective communication is listening. I find that when I am not listening to Indie, I am not listening to myself either. Polite as she is, Indie’s communication is always subtle. I have been guilty of ignoring the twitch of a tail, the rolling of an eye, the turning away of her head; but I am learning. Recently she became sluggish. The more I pushed Indie for anything the more she resisted and the more red-faced I became. The minute I went back to asking instead of telling, I was with the old Indie again. She may as well have said out loud, “Thank God for that, I’ve been trying to tell you for ages”. She only wanted to be asked nicely. Who doesn’t? Horses have much to teach us about the quality of our relationships, including our relationships with ourselves. However, we have to be quiet and still long enough to see it...and that’s something that they can help us with as well.
One symptom of my depression was the need to withdraw. Infertility drained me of the resilience to navigate the pressures of trying to be the perfect teacher, colleague, wife, daughter, sister, friend. Thanks to Indie, I could withdraw without feeling alone. Her nonjudgemental acceptance set an example to stop judging myself as insufficient and accept that I was struggling.
Learning to live with I am learning to live with the infertility, but a constant fear is that the depression and anxiety might return. Highly perceptive and holding up a mirror to my emotions and energy levels, Indie is a prompt to take action if I begin to decline. She is also a reminder that healthy relationships are key in recovery, and that relationships are reciprocal. I endeavour to be as receptive to Indie’s needs as she is to mine. Giving something back – both in my personal relationships and to society as a whole – has been another essential tool in maintaining good mental health and finding a purpose in life. ~*~
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Adele Racine Passmore HEART MEDICINE WOMAN Vision: to bring love and compassion to the hearts of humanity so we can remember why we’re here. Making her own drum played a significant role in guiding Adele home to her heart, and honouring her Native roots and Metis Heritage. Adele combines aspects from her life experiences and ancestral wisdom to facilitate Drum Making Experiences and drumming circles. Adele has always had an amazing love and ability to connect with horses and people alike. She knows firsthand the amazing affect that horses can have on a person’s heart. Throughout her life whenever healing was needed, without even understanding the connection, Adele was called back to the horses. The horses guided her wounded spirit towards self-actualization, acceptance and love. As the creator of “In Circle with Life,” Adele creates a sacred space for those wanting to begin their journey back to their source, that of love, by opening a pathway to self-healing, better health and happiness and a more heart centred and creative life. Adele, connected to spirit, partners with horses and Earth Mother Medicine offering private, group sessions and workshops. A balanced self is paramount to her agenda to facilitate her clients’ personal journeys towards wholeness and spiritual freedom. Adele is a Registered Natural Health Practitioner, Wellness and Life Co-Coach, FEEL Facilitator, trained as both Thai Massage Practitioner and Yoga Exercise Specialist. Connect with Adele through: www.incirclewithlife.ca or email@example.com.
Charlotte Brammer, RP Charlotte Brammer is a Registered Psychotherapist, EMDR Therapy practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, Equine Assisted Therapist as well as Relational Somatic Psychotherapy Level 2 trained. She specializes in anxiety treatment, OCD, PTSD, and complex trauma. Charlotte has been in private practice since 2007 and is certified through the CRPO and the NGH. Charlotte has 20 years of equine experience including natural horsemanship, therapeutic techniques, as well as classical Dressage training. Her unique approach stems from her own journey of healing from anxiety and OCD as well as her multi-disciplinary studies. Charlotte can help you to feel better, overcome trauma, let go of anxiety and stress, move forward with grace and ease and live fully and authentically. www.livingclarity.ca.
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CJ Shelton The art of CJ Shelton blends elements of Nature, ancient symbolism and beliefs central to humankind’s cultural, psychological and spiritual development. She explores these ideas through the lens of circular patterns called “mandalas” as well as in her newest series of work called The Grace Collection featuring ethereal and luminous images of “spirit” horses that evoke her life-long relationship with the healing power of these creatures. CJ is an Illustration graduate from Sheridan College with over 35 years’ experience as a portrait artist, illustrator and a graphic designer. She became fascinated with more intuitive art following a personal healing crisis that led to supplementary training in Social Service Work, therapeutic art facilitation, spiritual psychotherapy and shamanic practices. She now uses her unique combination of skills to facilitate others through healing and creative processes that blend ancient wisdom, art, nature and psychology into one seamless and integrative approach. In 2010, CJ achieved a life-long dream of having her own studio and public gallery that now showcases her mandala art and her ever-growing “herd” of horse paintings. CJ’s work can be viewed at www.dancingmoondesigns.ca or in her gallery, Studio 206 on the upper level of the historic Alton Mill Arts Centre in Caledon, Ontario, Canada.
Dare to Live: Grace Lawson Baker, BA Hons, PgDip Sharon Clifton (Dip TA psych. MBACP. CATT, EALF. MSAFE.) As well as working for The Dare to Live Trust, Grace Lawson Baker and Sharon Clifton work as clinical trauma-focused therapists in their own private practices. They have both trained at IFEAL Qualifications in the IFEAL Method of Equine Facilitated Human Development and Psychotraumatology. Dare to Live founder Sun Meyer originally spent 3 years studying at EponaQuest in the USA and then went on set up IFEAL Qualifications in 2007 providing accredited and regulated qualifications in The IFEAL Method in Equine Facilitated Human Development (EFHD) and Equine Facilitated Psychotraumatology (EFPT). Sun is a researcher, lecturer, tutor and supervisor in the field of Psychotraumatology and PTSD To find out more about the work of the Dare to Live Trust go to www.daretolive.org.uk.
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Dorothy Chiotti Dorothy Chiotti is a graduate of the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) program at Horse Spirit Connections in Tottenham, Ontario, Canada. Her practice, CorEquus, focuses on personal growth and self-discovery related to leadership and creativity. Dorothy's training background includes horsemanship certification from internationally-renown trainer, Chris Irwin, and coaching certification through Equestrian Canada. Her chosen discipline is dressage. Dorothy’s leadership background includes three years as president of Toronto CADORA, Canada's longest-running dressage organization, and other positions in various capacities. Beyond her equestrian pursuits, Dorothy is an accomplished writer with a background in corporate communications and media, and is a member of the Professional Writers' Association of Canada (PWAC). An avid photographer, Dorothy resides with her husband, rough collies, cats and equine friends on their farm in scenic Mono, Ontario, Canada. Dorothy can be reached through her websites: www.corequus.com or www.aimwellcreativeworks.com. Photo credit: Andrew Penny
Graeme Green Graeme is firmly committed to the benefits that meditation brings to people, he runs mindfulness programmes for a UK based mental health charity, as well as supporting its development in the workplace and for those around animals. He runs workshops and retreats around the UK and Europe, introducing people to the beneficial experience and insight to be gained through mediation – sometimes with, sometimes without horses. Those workshops are often supported by traditional drum work. Graeme has a broad collection of skills, he is Reiki drum master, an animal/human reiki practitioner and a qualified equine energy healer. He also works as a Business coach and trainer and an NLP practitioner. He is a director of Equilibrium for Life CIC which supports therapeutic interventions for vulnerable groups in the North Kent area. He also delivers Equine Assisted Action Learning programmes for local business teams. To find out more about Graeme and his work visit the Mindful Horse’s website or his CIC. www.themindfulhorse.org and www.equilibriumforlife.com. Photo credit: Linda Broomfield @ The Holistic Farm
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Jennifer Garland Jennifer Garland serves as Project Manager and Lead Facilitator for Building Internal Resilience Through Horses – a project led by Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre in collaboration with The Mane Intent Inc. and Trent University and funded by Public Health Agency of Canada. Jennifer is also Owner and Program Director for The Mane Intent Inc., offering Health and Wellness workshops, Coaching, Team Building and Leadership Development working in partnership with horses as natural coaches. With over 25 years of leadership experience as a strategist, facilitator and effectiveness coach in the corporate world, Jennifer has provided counsel and support to senior leaders from all walks of life to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change. The Mane Intent operates from Renegade Ridge Farm, owned by Garland and Chris van den Berg, and located near Peterborough, Ontario. The farm boasts a growing herd of healing horses, a few goats, a donkey, cats, dogs and other creatures. To learn more about the Building Internal Resilience research project, facilitator’s manual or Inviting Resilience 2019 Conference, contact Jennifer Garland at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our web site at www.themaneintent.ca. Photo credit: Summers Photography
Lindy Schneider Lindy Schneider first knew how much she needed horses in her life at age five, but it has taken forty years for her to have her first horse and find the solace and deep commitment of building an equine relationship every day. On reflection, life has long been preparing her for this grand passion in equine therapy and she draws on her background in Marketing and Human Resource Management and as a Counsellor and Art Therapist in clinical practice (and tutoring) and a post-graduate qualification in writing. She is a published author and has a keen interest in weaving together experiences for people that connects them with equine partners in the natural world to facilitate health, healing and a deeper sense of self and human potential. Her greatest lessons in life have come from her equine relationships. She is a Level 2 instructor in Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) and enjoys supporting others to explore the same power and grace that she has come to know as essential to ‘being’ with horses. www.lindyschneider.com.au. She also supports Kim Wren and the Wedgetail Rides herd of wonderful equine teachers. For more info www.wedgetailrides.com.au.
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Georgie McBurney, BSc, PGCE, MBACP Georgie became a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor specialising in Person Centred, Transactional Analysis and Gestalt therapies. She studied BSc (Hons) in Animal Science (Behaviour & Welfare) after careers in the Army and police; and gained a PGCE in Secondary Biology leading into a career in teaching in secondary schools before going on to lecture at university level. She became a Programme Leader when she wrote and set up a BTEC in Equine Management which introduced Monty Roberts Horsemanship within a traditional equine establishment. Due to her sisterâ€™s psychosis, Georgie became a kinship foster carer and gave up all other work when her niece was paralysed suddenly whilst at school. Her niece went on to make a full recovery and their pony Jac was pivotal in her rehabilitation process and in supporting her emotional well-being which inspired Georgie to train in Equine Facilitated Learning/Psychotherapy with the LEAP model.
Livvy Adams It was there that she met her business partner Livvy Adams, a former police officer who specialised in helping women and children in abusive relationships. Livvy later retrained as an accountant after having her own children. Livvy trained with horse whisperer Franklin Levinson and EPONA instructors before going on to train with LEAP. She had set up a business called Paintedhorse in Glastonbury and had a herd of six. Livvy has also studied Eco ReWilding and is currently training to be a counsellor. Georgie moved to Glastonbury to add Jac to Livvy's herd of six and within months their herd grew to twelve as they rehabilitated and 'rewilded' several more ponies that came their way. Paintedhorse became a Community Interest Company which now specialises in Equine ReWilding, which uses nature and the power of the herd to help people rediscover and connect to their authentic and 'wild' self. www.paintedhorse.org.uk
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Sarah Schlote, MA, RP, CCC, SEP Sarah Schlote is a Registered Psychotherapist, Canadian Certified Counsellor and Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner with a specialization in complex trauma, attachment, somatics and dissociation. Beyond her trauma-focused master’s degree in Counselling Psychology from the University of Victoria, BC, she has also completed training in EMDR®, Structural Dissociation parts work, somatic touch work, attachmentoriented therapy, Body Memory Recall, and elements drawn from numerous other best practice approaches. Her work is integrative, holistic, diversity sensitive, anti-oppressive and respectful of different faiths, aboriginal traditions, cultures and groups. Aside from her master’s thesis research on the field of equine-assisted interventions and involvement in the development of standards of practice, she completed the Integrative Equine-Facilitated Wellness training developed by Deborah Marshall, and has been exposed to Natural Lifemanship, FEEL, EponaQuest, EAGALA, and Adventures in Awareness, along with other approaches. An experienced trainer in the field of trauma-informed care and trauma treatment, she has published and offers trainings on Trauma-Informed Equine-Assisted Practice, and EQUUSOMA™, integrating Somatic Experiencing® and attachment into equine-assisted interventions. For more information: www.equusoma.com, www.healingrefuge.com, www.traumatrainings.com and www.traumainformedyoga.ca. Photo credit: David Karaiskos Photography
Stephanie Chilton Stephanie Chilton first discovered the healing power of animals when her parents took her for her first riding lesson at age six. As a young adult, she spent less time with animals and trained to become a teacher. Eventually, a combination of work pressures and a diagnosis of infertility resulting from premature ovarian failure saw her develop anxiety and depression. Stephanie now lives in Yorkshire, UK, with her husband, Tom, and works as a university administrator and a private tutor. She is working towards creating a blog in order to support fellow sufferers and is currently writing a book about her experiences. Supporting her through her recovery are the animals she has since shared her life with, in particular her Friesian mare, Indie, who has been with her for the last four years. If you wish to connect with Stephanie or be notified of the launch of her blog, please contact email@example.com.
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Taylor Beckett Taylorâ€™s earliest horse memories: riding ponies at fairs, stopping at the side of the road to admire them, dreaming of them. They helped ground her throughout her life and travels. During highschool, Taylor and her first horse Jet competed in many local horse shows, advancing to the Ontario Appaloosa Circuit. They were the Provincial Reserve Champions. However, their show career went on hiatus when Taylor left to study in England for a year. Returning to Canada, Taylor rekindled her bond with Jet, but decided to leave the competitions behind. She began looking at different ways of having a relationship with her horses and read about Mark Rashid, Linda Kohanov and Carolyn Resnick. She graduated the FEEL program in 2012 and studied Pair Bonding with Marina Wright. Combining these methods with her own personal knowledge and experience, Taylor has developed a deep and trusting relationship with her horses, one in which their unique personalities are celebrated and their deep desire to help people is encouraged. An opportunity to combine her passion for the horses with her desire to help people reconnect with their heart, Taylor is excited to share her herd with you! www.silverwillowfarmbeyondorganics.com, Silverwillowfarmbeyondorganics@bell.net, 905-517-6859
Becci Godfrey Becci was lucky enough to grow up with horses since birth. Always praised for her discipline, consideration to others and ability to read a situation, she was forced to stop and think where she had learnt these skills from? Time and time again the answer would be waiting in the stable for her. Now, more than thirty years on and with a firm understanding of how crucial these skills are for success in life, she has committed to making that same learning opportunity available to others. Following a career as an editor, and then a Farm Conservation Adviser, a stint in the admin department of the National Health Service convinced her she needed to step up and make a difference in a way that people didnâ€™t know they needed yet. She trained in Reiki Healing, Mind Detox and the EAHAE model of Horse Assisted Education, starting her Leadership and Development business HorseSense UK in 2010. Along with corporate training programmes and a thriving health and wellbeing business, Becci leads regular EFL development training in the UK and is currently training to become a Calmologist. HorseSenseUK.com, MindDetoxTunbridgeWells.co.uk, ReikiMarkCross.co.uk.
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Pat Hutchinson Pat is a certified Advanced FEEL Facilitator working in the Durham Region, Ontario, Canada. She discovered the world of horses later in life. She intuitively and experientially knew there was more to the horse/human relationship. Her excitement grew as she experienced, first-hand, the healing ability of the horses. Pat observed their innate strategies to manage their stress reactions. Since stress management was Pat’s passion, seeing this in the horses stoked the flames! Pat felt that these beings had much, much more to teach humans, if we would only let them! They had a way of being that was so completely in the moment, a skill that normally takes us a lifetime to learn to practice consistently. When living from this place, a deeper emotional vitality, spiritual connection and mental serenity are possible. This is what drives her to share this way of being. These beings point us in a direction of self-empowerment, self-knowledge and self-respect through their willing co-operation and collaboration. Their teachings are gentle, subtle, rapid, extremely effective and always authentic. With the help of our equine partners, we learn to be present in this moment. We can live a calm, healthy, powerful life. Horse & Human = Power & Presence. Pat can be reached through her FaceBook page or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynda Watson Lynda Watson is a passionate and joyful human being. Life couldn’t be fuller and she is grateful for every minute of it. Along with her Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) business, HorseTouch (of which she is a certified facilitator), she founded the community organization, Dreamation that bring the values and skills learned from the horses to diverse audiences. Lynda enjoys sharing the horse’s wisdom and then enhancing those lessons during equine workshops. At the time of this publication Lynda is working for the Government of Canada for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls. A role she performs with great honour and respect. Lynda has enjoyed many fabulous adventures on her journey through life so far. These include; mother, equestrian coach with her own farm for 20 years, working in the humanitarian field, avid traveller and lifelong learner in the field of human potential. She also works as a professional facilitator with positions such as senior facilitator with the Canadian Red Cross and partner facilitator with several EFL farms and professionals. Lynda’s life mission is to make positive and peaceful change in the world while inspiring & supporting others to do the same. ‘Equine Leadership’ is an exciting adventure she adds to her list. www.horsetouch.ca/ Lynda.email@example.com www.dreamation.ca.
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SENIOR MOMENTS By: Adele Passmore Jack approached Mickey without hesitation, “Hey big fellow” he called out. No longer listening to my encouragement to have a seat with the others and with his cane clicking on the concrete floor, Jack walked up and stood with Mickey and I. Mickey lowered his head to take in his new friend as Jack scratched his forelock. Mickey slowly closed his eyes as Jack gently moved down his face. Jack told the group of his love for horses, a love he had had from the time he was a kid and just how he missed them. It was clear Jack was reclaiming and feeling through memories as he stood with Mickey. Jack smiled as he spoke of horses delivering milk and how excited most of the kids were as they heard them coming. By this time Jack and Mickeys’ noses were just about touching, exchanging the essence of mutual love. Mickey soaked up all that was being offered to him and mirrored Jacks heartfelt admiration. He demonstrated how horses have a unique way of prompting us to feel, and then holding the space for the experience. On these special visits it was indeed exciting to see the bus coming in the driveway knowing more than a thousand years of living experience was about to disembark. As they got off the bus a few golden agers were independently mobile, others had their walkers, a few with canes and even a few folks in wheelchairs. I knew they would enjoy the beautiful farm space with the horses but the impacts and just how meaningful, was far more powerful than I could have imagined. March 2018
The benefits on their emotional wellness was noticeable throughout the day. Lives would be changed, mine included, and all with a little horse medicine. Four different groups of seniors came and spent a few hours with me and my two rescue horses, Mickey and Noah. Some of those seniors had worked with me as part of their wellness program for more than a year. Each month they would always asked about “the boys”, my boys. They had heard the stories, seen pictures and were excited to finally meet them in person. After arriving the seniors took the time to enjoy the horses from afar, observing the ways in which they communicate and display their place
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within the herd. Simply observing the horses in community interacting without words, flowing with their needs and emotions. We gathered after for conversation over tea and snacks in a lovely room in the barn decorated with pictures of all the horses that had lived on the land over the 20 years. As they shared stories about their experiences with horses or lack of experience, they took in new awareness and understandings about each other as a community. Stories of their lives with and without horses, of the good and hard old days.
Marion, a spirited and active woman in her nineties told of how she had always wanted to brush a horse and that it was in fact on her â€œbucket listâ€?. When the opportunity had presented, fear had held her back and she never made it happen. When this outing was announced at her retirement residence she knew she needed to attend. Hearing this, I invited her to allow Mickey to help her make it happen. She thought about it for a second and then jumped up ready and willing.
We briefly explored the emotions that came up for her when she thought of doing this activity, For some it would be the first time up close and personal which were fear There was an and vulnerability energy of relating to her anticipation to lack of meet the horses experience. I and for some it encouraged her would be their to express her first time up close feelings and and personal with concerns to these majestic Mickey and, in creatures who acknowledgeme were loved from nt of the afar. Others truthfulness in carried memories her heart, which left them Mickey lowered with an his head and apprehension licked his lips. We are never too old to learn something new towards them. For me it was a And with some, sharing nothing but gleeful sign of the connection that was happening memories of the freedom their horse offered between them. After a little more guidance, I them. One woman spoke of riding bareback to handed a brush to Marion and she began to school in Saskatchewan and of the loving and experience something new in her nineties. trusting bond between that little girl and her horse. Page | - 32 -
A little less apprehension With a hand on Mickeyâ€™s shoulder Marion brushed along his back as high as she could reach and with each stroke felt a little less apprehension. She left that day with a new sense of success and confidence, and with one less thing on her bucket list. The smile on her face was priceless. Horses help us feel brave and confident and hold space for us to experience new things at any age. One participant told us he left the farm when he was eleven and had not been around horses since. George is now in his nineties, which made that experience more than eighty years ago. At this time in his life he is without a majority of
his sight, yet he spoke of how the smells and sounds of the farm and the land filled him with memories that were clearly meaningful for him. Perhaps a closing of a circle, honoring of a life well lived, of adventures, of love and loss, all beautiful moments. I did indeed witness, that even with more than a thousand years of life experiences, those beautiful seniors had learned something new that day. Mickey and I watched them board the bus a little brighter, a little lighter, a little more confident and with a new sense of community. These memorable senior moments showed me that we are never too old to; share in a little horse medicine, learn something new, let things go and conquer a little fear. ~*~
â€œHorses taught me grounded steadiness. â€œ David R. Senior, Workshop Participant
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HORSES AND HEROES By: Sharon Clifton, Dip TA psych. MBACP. CATT, EALF. MSAFE and Grace Lawson, BA Hons, PgDip
There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man Sir Winston Churchill
Working with horses is fast becoming an accepted form of human development and learning or therapy, with a variety of applications. Founded by Sun Tui in 2007, IFEAL has developed an accredited and regulated qualification in Equine Facilitated Human Development and Learning (EFHDL) known as the IFEAL Method, using evidence-based psychological frameworks. In 2011, Sun, an army veteran herself, initiated the development of a set of specialised programmes, based on education and life skills for serving and ex-serving military personnel and their families - the charity, The Dare to Live Trust. With the help of horses, the charity aims to address some of the issues and challenges former service personnel face as they integrate back into civilian life, a time when many service men and women confront their greatest fight for survival. Many suffer from mental health issues, such as depression, anger, anxiety and stress. Such Page | - 34 -
problems lead to relationship difficulties and, in extreme cases, social exclusion. Through the Dare to Live programme, participants learn to recognize their own value and unique significance. This is often the key to unlocking their potential and allowing them to successfully transition into civilian life. The hidden wounds carried by the veterans cause many to feel that life has become futile. They frequently feel a sense of hopelessness, with a resultant high risk of suicide. Families break down and it is hard for them to find stability or hold down a job. Flashbacks cause them to relive the trauma of war in every waking moment. Many talk about feeling March 2018
abandoned by the military. They describe their experience of military life as being bent into the shape of killing machines, losing the ability to think for themselves, only able to think as the unit they are a part of. Some relate their experiences as being brutalised so they can go on to brutalise others.
Some relate their experiences as being brutalised so they can go on to brutalise others. As Dare to Live facilitators, we often witness what appears to be a loss of soul or spirit on meeting these individuals. They present as if facially masked, pale and expressionless, shell-shocked, and often have a look of being disconnected from themselves and the world around them.
Horses at its heart The Dare to Live programme has been created with horses at its heart. Horses are particularly suited to helping people work with difficult emotions, learn to trust enough to allow relationships to develop, and find internal places of safety. Being prey animals, horses are highly sensitive to each other and their environment, and have had to use this constant state of awareness to stay safe and ensure survival. These skills mean they can accurately read human emotional states, responding to non-verbal communication in the moment and to emotions that may be known or unknown to the individual. In other words, horses “feel” rather than “think” us.
By the time veterans arrive on a Dare to Live programme, they frequently have a diagnosis of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This mental health disorder impacts people’s lives in many ways and we now know that the symptoms of PTSD are the result of real changes in the brain. As well as the symptoms described above, survivors of trauma commonly feel jumpy, overly watchful and have difficulty concentrating or sleeping (known as hyperarousal). They have anger outbursts and a tendency to selfdestructive, suicidal and abnormal risk-taking behaviour. Avoidance of places, things or people that remind them of the trauma can lead, in extreme cases, to refusal to leave the house or perceived place of safety. Low mood and anxiety are common, as are relationship problems, due to an inability to trust others and feel safe. March 2018
Horses “feel” rather than “think” us Horses are not interested in what we do or say. They are looking for honest and congruent communication which means they respond honestly to what we bring to the relationship. This reflection allows the veteran to understand and recognise the impact their behaviour may have on others. If an approach doesn’t work, the veteran learns a different approach is needed. In this way, the horses create the space for helpful and gentle emotional experience to take place. Page | - 35 -
It is the non-judgmental nature of horses that allows the veterans to find new ways to set appropriate boundaries and build their confidence and trust. Developing empathy for the horses means they can get in touch with the feelings and needs of another. Ideally this translates into improved relationships in their normal daily lives.
A new way of communicating Dare to Live is structured so that participants, with the help of the horses and specialist Dare to Live facilitators, experience connection; a new way of communicating and relating that eventually leads them to look at a new direction for their future. It is a trauma-focused programme, providing participants with tools to improve their ability to regulate their nervous systems, thereby creating a place for healing and recovery. This is based on the notion of limbic resonance, the idea that the limbic system of the brain allows us to share deep emotional states with other mammals. These states include empathic harmony and the emotional states of fear, anxiety and anger. Horses have a very large and well-developed limbic system, so by being in their presence there is the opportunity to experience a deep sense of non-judgmental connection. This leads to revision of neural pathways and new ways of thinking, feeling and behaviour. As facilitators, we have the privilege of witnessing the veterans’ experiences with the horses and observing the power of the relationships developing between them. These
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can lead to transformation and a sense of hope for the individual. Recently, a veteran told us that following the work with the horses, he saw, “a light in his darkness for the first time in years”. Veterans tell us that by the end of the programme they have a renewed sense of self and awareness of their bodies. They say that they can trust their bodies to give them honest feedback, which makes them less reliant on the vagaries of their minds. It is our job to facilitate working within a veteran’s stretch zone, however large or small this may be. For instance, for one person it is about feeding themselves; another could want to feel safe enough to have 6 hours undisturbed sleep; yet another may want to leave the house alone, for the first time in years. The veterans’ safety is a priority, so we keep in touch by phone. We repeatedly hear that with the help of the horses, the programme has enabled them to create some stability in their life. They are experiencing improved relationships with family and friends. With a renewed sense of self, they report being reconnected to life. They are active in their own recovery. So much to celebrate, none of which could be achieved without the horses, who are at the heart of it all. These wonderful creatures can see beyond the mental and physical wounds of the veterans, and quite literally carry them to safety and beyond, away from the battlefields of their minds. ~*~
BUILDING INTERNAL RESILIENCE THROUGH HORSES By: Jennifer Garland
“Samson showed me there is a future beyond the present and past. His sadness and energy just made me want to hug him and show him that love exists. He made me feel special, like I mattered to him. He showed me that I can trust him.”
Samson’s size can be intimidating. He has big, soft, brown eyes. He is cautious and reserved when meeting people he doesn’t know. While quite powerful, he suffers from anxiety. On this day, he is meeting a group of young women for the first time and he’s nervous. Samson is a beautiful Clydesdale/Belgium cross who arrived at his current home after a lifetime of working very hard. He was tired and burnt out upon arrival. While he still has strong shoulders to lean on -- now he has a new purpose as a life coach. A young woman is introduced to him as part of a facilitated ‘welcome to the herd’ experience. There is something in his demeanour that March 2018
peacefully draws her in. Quietly, in this moment, time stops as they stand together, sizing each other up. He starts to yawn – releasing some of the tension between them and inviting her to exhale. She responds with a smile and her body relaxes. He relaxes too as they stand together – both present and enjoying the moment. Samson is a wonderful natural coach. He is part of a gentle herd of horses helping young women overcome the impact of violence-based trauma and build their life skills thanks to an initiative called Building Internal Resilience Through Horses. This is a 12-week community-based program designed to promote resilience and life-skills in Page | - 37 -
young women aged 13 – 18 living in the City and County of Peterborough and surrounding areas in Ontario, Canada, who are survivors of child maltreatment and/or who are women exposed to intimate partner violence. The program is grounded in trauma-informed practice and consists of 8 weeks of experiential equineassisted learning sessions, supplemented with 4 weeks of psychoeducational and expressive art workshops.
management and interpersonal skills,” explains Dr. Kateryna Keefer, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Trent University and the research lead for Building Internal Resilience Through Horses.
Building Internal Resilience is also a three-year research project, challenging the paradigm that traditional counselling and ‘talk therapies’ are the only effective approaches to supporting young women aged 13 – 18 cope with the impact of trauma. Launched in March, 2017, the research project is led by Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre and is a collaboration between The Mane Intent and Trent University funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It is furthering existing research on the benefits of equine-assisted learning for survivors of child maltreatment and for young women exposed to intimate partner violence.
“Our project addresses the mental health needs of young women who have been victims of and/or witnessed domestic violence (or may be experiencing dating violence) and have or at risk of child abuse. The design and delivery of our project is innovative in that we are targeting the well-known link between experiences of harm and risk for future harm, and we are hypothesizing that the combination of equine assisted learning, coupled with expressive arts workshops and trauma-related psychotherapy, will build resiliency for our participants, thereby improving their long-term outcomes for the future,” explains Sonya Vellenga, Executive Director, Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre.
“We are exploring the benefits of an experiential learning paradigm based on nonverbal interaction with horses as a vehicle for improving self-awareness, confidence, emotion Page | - 38 -
The Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre has renewed its focus on resiliency and prevention initiatives for young people because many of the individuals who access the Centre share stories of childhood abuse.
As lead facilitator and project manager for the program, it has been incredibly rewarding for me to witness the personal unfolding that March 2018
happens when you introduce participants to a gentle, curious herd of horses with a genuine desire to connect.
“I felt empowered. I felt supported by both horses as they both gave me something out of this,” noted another.
Ultimately our intent is to help young women reduce post-traumatic symptoms, improve mental health, enhance personal coping skills and resilience, while reducing their risk of harm in the future. Our early results to date are suggesting that these powerful relationships are a step in the right direction.
Our herd includes a mixture of mares and geldings who arrived at the farm with a variety of life experiences — much like many of our clients. This is a gentle, relaxed herd. Each horse brings a unique personality and their own story to this work, as they engage on the ground in partnership with our clients. For participants in Building Internal Resilience With Horses, this is a safe place to explore what’s possible while being mindful of their heart’s desire.
The “real” me “This group gave me a chance to see the real me,” a participant shared after completing the program. “The horses taught me so much in so little time,” one participant shared as part of her feedback.
Summarizing their experience in one word, the young women reported feeling ‘empowered,’ ‘powerful,’ ‘calm,’ ‘confident,’ and ‘loved.’ Or as noted by Samson’s client above, they find a space to discover trust again. ~*~
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HORSE TIME HELPS HEAL THE HEARTS OF FAMILIES By: Lindy Schneider
“At first, when kids asked why I wasn’t at school I didn’t want to tell them I was at Equine Therapy or why. But as the weeks passed my confidence grew and I realised how privileged I was to be in the program, so I told them all they should be doing Equine Therapy, too.” Towards the end of the program, one young female participant announced she loved Equine Therapy so much she was telling her school friends the truth about where she was going rather than hiding it, and having honest conversations about what she was dealing with, and how much confidence and self-belief she had gained from the horses. Her mother stood beside her with relief clearly showing on her face. Our mother-daughter horse combination in a nearby paddock then put on quite a show in setting boundaries. The women and her child laughed together for the first time in a long time, as they reflected on how similar their own mother-daughter dynamics were.
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Proactive policing, whole-of-family support and equine facilitated learning (EFL) formed the foundation of this progressive pilot program developed in the Yarra Valley in Australia, for ‘at-risk’ young people, to address family violence. Participants had had some police involvement due to violent behaviours, but had the support of family, school and the intervention service that recommended their participation in this first-of-its -kind program titled Rein It In. A joint initiative between a regional community mental health and wellbeing service called EACH, the Victorian Police and the therapeutic
team at Wedgetail Rides, the program included an 8-week educational component for twenty young people, a parent education program (based on the Step Up early intervention Adolescent Family Violence Program), wilderness activities and EFL sessions.
While the longer-term outcomes (six months and twelve months) of this program are still being assessed, there have been some more immediate and self-reported benefits provided by participants and their families. The Rein It In program was successful for many reasons.
With an emphasis on mental health, which can often coincide with at-risk behaviours, the program was attended by both young men and women aged 12 -15 years, and facilitated by a team of five EFL practitioners (including a registered psychologist). The interaction ratio was one horse, two participants and one practitioner, so participants also had the opportunity to observe one another.
The overall retention of participants in the program was well above expectations. The EFL sessions were so well anticipated by the young people, there was increased participation in the educational component as a lead in to the EFL sessions.
Experiential activities During the program, young people participated in experiential activities such as grooming, leading and agility type activities (all ground based), through to an experience of liberty work in their final session, during which the young people experienced firsthand the connection they had with their horse by moving them with ‘energy’ and intention in the round pen. Topics covered included: ‘Breathing and Body Awareness’; ‘Trust and Communication’; ‘Boundaries and Confidence’; ‘Emotional Regulation and Connection’; ‘Empowerment and Communication’ and ‘Self-esteem and Celebration’. Skills were built sequentially each week and the EFL activities consciously provided embodied experiences of the program content that had been taught in the education session. This proved to be a highly effective means by which the young people could test their understanding of the material and provided another learning pathway, which was especially important for those with learning challenges or more kinetic learning styles. There was also a week where parents and siblings attended and the young people ‘taught’ their family what they had learned. This proved to be of enormous value in terms of communication, power and mutual respect.
The horse as ‘therapist’ was also of key importance with many young people weary of therapy with humans. The herd created a different space for selfexpression, and our practitioners regularly experienced an open level of sharing and selfawareness by participants, that was considered helpful. As a practitioner, I observed that many of the behavioural issues that bought these young people to the program were minimised, if not absent, during their time in EFL sessions. Horses modelled a way of being that provided these young people with new ways of experiencing themselves and managing reactions. Participants self-reported they were experiencing greater levels of happiness, less conflict and the value of mindfulness in their lives between sessions. We saw visual improvement both in individuals and in the group dynamic. The horses reflected these felt changes in the participants, showing us they had developed trust in their young handlers, particularly when playing at liberty or moving through more challenging agility activities with softness and willingness.
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“EFL is truly present when we create a space for the horses to enact the teaching they are so profoundly good at.” It was perhaps the final session that truly evidenced the powerful and subtle influence of EFL and the herd. One young man with ADHD was unable to focus in our group activity. He had gravitated towards 17 hand Clydesdale ‘Diesel’ in prior sessions ignoring the smaller horses.
It was, of course, 7 hand Shetland ‘Noddie’ who reached out to him, appearing from behind a tree to put his muzzle in the young man’s hand and nudge him towards the group. The smallest healer can be the most insightful sometimes, and the power of EFL is truly present when we create a space for the horses to enact the teaching they are so profoundly good at. ~*~
"The horse becomes a bridge between the client and the therapist. A mediator of emotions and feelings. Through the horse we are able to enter the client’s world more fully.” Lindy Schneider
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HONOURING MY GRIEF By: Taylor Beckett Junzi stood at the fence, staring at me. His dappled bay coat was glistening in the sunshine, his long thick mane a mess from burrs and wind. His liquid brown eyes were soft and calling to me. When I looked at him, he tossed his head and stomped his foot, trying to get my attention. I rolled down the window and told him I loved him. I told myself I was on my way to work and didn’t have time to stop and say hello. I didn’t want to acknowledge the truth. A week ago, my Rocky Mountain stallion Jacob died. He wasn’t the first horse I had lost in the almost three decades I have been with horses, but his death was hitting me hard. Although I had only had him for a year, over the last few months I had been working with him, developing our relationship and strengthening our trust. He had just opened up to me, finally acknowledging that the horse-human bond could be more than just domination. His death was sudden and unexpected. He had managed to twist his back in the field and the inflammation in his spine was making him lose control of his back legs. His last 48 hours were spent with me by his side, helping him stand up whenever he went down. In the end, we couldn’t get control of the inflammation. He went down and no matter what we did, we couldn’t get him up again.
A week later, and those last hours would still flash in my mind. I would see him struggling to stand, a look of pleading in his eyes as I tried to help him get his back legs under him. And finally, the look of resignation he gave me when he knew he didn’t want to try anymore and I knew there was only one kindness I could give him. The truth was, in the week since Jacob’s death, I hadn’t really gone out to the field. Junzi was reminding me of that. Reminding me that I didn’t have to suffer my grief alone. But I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that yet. I was still in denial. I told myself I was just too busy to spend time with them. A week later, after dinner, my boyfriend Ben asked me if I would do him a favour and come for a walk with him. He took me to the horses. I stopped and said hi to a few of them, and then we got to Junzi. Normally a handful, and a horse that pushes buttons and boundaries, Junzi stopped and stood quietly in front of me. His ears tipped back slightly, his eyes half closed and he began to lick and chew, a sign that he was in agreement and I was being congruent with my feelings and thoughts. As I stood with him, I felt my heart beat and breath slow as he dropped me into a meditative state. We stood there together, Ben with his arms around me, Junzi with his Page | - 43 -
nose inches from my heart, the other members of the herd standing quietly in a circle around us and the cattle standing quietly around them.
this death quickly. I wanted to show myself how far I had come in my emotional agility, how quickly I could get back to neutral.
I felt held and loved. I felt my heart slowly opening to the gift of love and comfort they were offering me. I realized that I was not doing as well as I was telling myself. I allowed myself to feel the depth of the grief and I felt Junzi slowly gathering it up and draining it into the earth. Time stopped. Maybe we were there for 5 minutes or maybe it was an hour. All that existed in that moment was a deep sense of being held and being accepted.
As I stood with Rose, I realized that I had not been honouring my emotions. I had not been open to feeling the depth of this grief and had tried to by-pass it. I had tried to work through it as though there was some schedule I needed to keep, as if there was a right way to process it. In the presence of Rose’s vulnerability, I allowed myself to be vulnerable as well. Together, we mourned the loss of a horse who we loved and who we missed.
A few days later, I went out to the field again. This time it was Jacob’s mares that approached me. The three of them stood around me, noses towards me in a circle but not touching me. Once again, I could feel that deep sense of being held and my heart opening to the depth of hurt and love that were sitting inside it. I began to walk away and Rose followed me. Almost solid black, this petite Rocky Mountain mare is shy and reserved. I felt truly blessed that she had chosen to follow me.
I wish I could say that in those two short sessions, the grief was gone. Instead, the horses gifted me with a shift in my perspective on grief and allowed me a safe place where I could begin to feel it and experience it in its fullness. I spend time with them regularly again, and with each visit, I feel a little more in balance. Grief is a process and it comes in waves. With the help of the herd, I am learning to ride the waves in a more balanced way, not surfing above them and not drowning below them. Instead, I am learning how to float comfortably, feeling the grief all around me when it comes and not fearing it.
Looking at her, I realized that she was still feeling the depth of the loss of her stallion as much as I was. As we stood together, I cried into her neck. I felt the shift of the roles – while Junzi had gathered my grief and released it into the ground, I was gathering Rose’s grief and releasing it in my tears. As I cried, I realized the importance of these tears. I realized I had been blocking my tears – I wanted to move through Page | - 44 -
Grief is one of the most difficult emotions to work through. There is no real action you can take to “fix” it. Instead, it is something you need to experience in all of its pain. The horses offer amazing insight into how to do this wholely, authentically and meaningfully. ~*~ March 2018
THE WINDOW OF TRUE VIEWING©: Observing the equine collective By: Lynda Watson
What skills and relational dynamics can horses role model that, if learned and practiced in human culture, can move a community from striving to thriving? Positive change? Improve the emotional wellness of the human collective? Horses live in a community structure that is based on specific attributes that provide them safety and survival. That is their ‘goal’, their top priority. And that is a place where we can learn so much. They model a dynamic that includes the whole herd. It’s about being the best herd member they can be for themselves and the collective. When we step back and observe the herd, through what I call the: Window of True Viewing, we can see and learn so many lessons for enhancing our community. Be that a team, a family, a neighbourhood and yes, if we think
really big, a nation and even humanity. What can herd dynamics teach us about creating a better world? First let’s look at the Window of True Viewing. Throughout this magazine you have read stories and articles of folks learning and healing through their interactions with the horses. How does the horse view us? See us? One of the beautiful things about horses is, they see us in the present and only in the present, without judgment. NO labels, no stereotypes, no misconceptions, no past, only presence. They read and feel us in the here and now. They
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don’t see gender, age, ability, economic status just us. The us in that moment. They are honest; completely and fully honest. They aren’t worried about how we might feel or react. They are just real about what they sense and experience. And they do all of this just by being themselves in their herd.
Suspend judgement To be in this space of learning can we suspend judgement, worry, projection and stay completely present? Find a quiet spot to sit and observe from a distance. The closer to natural a herd you find, the more you will learn. If we are good to give it try, let’s take the time and courage to look through the Window of True Viewing, and perhaps find some amazing dynamics that we can see, as models for positive transformation in our human herds. A note for the first time that you observe through the Window of True Viewing: when I first sat to observe I thought, ‘wow, this is like watching slow TV.’ All they do is graze, sleep, drink, sleep, graze, etc. There’s nothing much going on really. Boring! Wait a minute....that was my human mind racing, wanting actionwanting movement-believing something had to be happening. When I recognized what was going on within me...I decided to let it go, moved my viewing to a place of presence, nonjudgement and moved from my head to a quiet place in my heart. I started to see and feel things differently.
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Lesson 1: Slow down. You don’t always have to be doing. Being is a fine and calming place to be. And that is just how the herd lives naturally. Why is it a good place for them to be? Because they are prey animals they are hyper vigilant to what dangers might be in the environment around them, although not always in a state of hyper arousal. They are actually in a state of calm. They are completely in tune with nature, conserving their energy for when it is needed and ready to move when intuition calls for it. When the time comes to move they move. They don’t have a meeting to discuss it. They move! Any moment spent lingering is a moment closer to mortal danger. And that takes the utmost trust in your community.
Lesson 2: Trust. We know the collective is made up of individual herd members and it is important for each to be the best herd member they can be. By being authentic and aware, by setting healthy boundaries and being compassionate (meaning acting in ways that assist the greater good of the herd), one becomes trustworthy. When a young colt starts ‘horsing’ around too much, one of the mares in the herd might push them out of the herd until they can settle and become present again. Remember, they need to all remain present to survive. Goofing around too much takes one out of presence and awareness of the environment around them. A herd then is able to move on intuition, because they trust each other. When in flight from danger they move like a flock of birds that seem to move as one. They trust each other that they are doing what is best for the herd, moving to safety.
Imagine living in a human herd that is built on absolute trust. How does that look? Is every human herd member able to be present, authentic, aware and able to set healthy boundaries? If not, sit and watch the herd for a while. See how they do it.
Lesson 3: Emotional resilience. Horses have the agility in so far as they can feel an emotion, to get a message from it and react accordingly (that might be feeling or sensing fear and moving away from it), and then when they are finished with that emotion, they LET IT GO! Well, therein is a huge lesson we can learn from the collective. They let it go! They don’t get stuck in it. They don’t hold on to it. They simply let it go and go back to grazing. Literally, go back to grazing. It is common to see a horse throw its ears back to set a boundary and then be eating right beside that same horse seconds later. In that moment they felt the need to set that boundary, but they don’t stay in that emotion. We humans like to sit in our emotions. We tend to fester in them, and then our bodies feel the ramifications of that. Emotions sit in our body and when we don’t let them go, we become imbalanced. Watch a herd of horses and you will see emotional agility displayed again and again. They will always come back to presence, where they can be aware of their environment. Feeling and communicating our true emotions takes unconditional authenticity.
Lesson 4: Authenticity. Authenticity can be seen in 3 different ways. One: A horse is a horse. They don’t try to be anything else.
They don’t try to be like another horse. We are humans, yes, but how often do we own who we truly are? How often do we try and be someone else? There is something in the saying: ‘A horse is a horse, of course.’ Two: Authenticity is also found in how horses communicate. They call it as they see it. They are not worried about what the other horse feels. They state how they feel and that is that. They communicate from their heart. They are not malicious. They communicate for their survival and safety. Three: Authenticity in community. Horses live in an authentic community that holds all of the aspects mentioned thus far in this article; nonjudgement, healthy boundaries, emotional agility, presence, compassion, and on I could go. How could we bring all of those aspects into our relationships in family, teams, at work, in our communities, to make them more peaceful and positive places? As we watch the equine collective through the Window of True Viewing we begin to slow down and move into our heart where we find a beautiful place of calm. A place where we see things we might not have seen had we remained in the human mind. In the end it is not just about the self / the ‘I’. It’s also about how we work together and how we create environments where others feel safe and inspired to speak and live their truth. I summarize that self and community are simultaneous, and that horses are the best and kindest role models to teach us how to live in communities that are not just striving, but thriving, together.
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I invite you to take the time and sit in observation with a herd somewhere. Whether it is to learn ways to make your community more positive and peaceful, or just to find some peace within. Some of my most beautiful moments with the horses have been when I have chosen to simply go and sit with the herd, become truly present and let go of my human
mind and move into my human heart. I connected with the heart of the herd. When I did so, on occasion the herd has come to me, surrounded me and continued being a herd with a human member. I knew they would only do that if they felt safe. And it felt good and right. I was one with the herd. One with the equine collective. ~*~
â€œAll a horse need be is itself (unencumbered, untethered and unbridled) to teach us endless wisdom about ourselves, our relationship to those around us and the world as a whole. We live our best lives when we are completely and truly free (unencumbered, untethered and unbridled).â€? Lynda Watson
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Gratitudes To those that assisted in making Equine Leadership 3 a reality and success: Once just isnâ€™t enough: Pat Hutchinson and Becci Godfrey for your expertise and shared vision. To the participants in workshops and sessions whose stories and photos were shared. Equine Photographic Acknowledgements: The horses at Unbridled Experiences The ponies at Atkins Pony Rides The herds of the New Forest, UK and to all of the horses around the world that share with us their world. If a photo has not been acknowledged, photo credits go the author of the article. As well as all of the authors, photographers and humans in each article and YOU the reader. And forever to the horses that make our world a better place and offer: A model of more peaceful and positive living for all.
From my heart to yours, Lynda Watson Contact Equine Leadership 3 @ Lynda.firstname.lastname@example.org
Front and back pages: HorseTouch Equine Photos / Location: Unbridled Experiences, King, Ontario March 2018
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A model of peaceful and positive living for all. Individually and collectively. Horses lead the way!