My relationship with equine therapy started after I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had double mastectomies and reconstruction. I knew i needed therapy and i had a lifetime’s worth of healing to do, but was not ready to start regular therapy. Added to this, my beloved sister died at age 46, 20 years prior due to alcoholism, but her death blow came from an accident with her horse, Sanka.
For many years I blamed her horse and stayed away from horses. My first step in healing my multiple emotional traumas was participating in equine therapy, at Solia Farm in Apison with, my now close friend, Kristyn Fabela. Being at the farm, with Kristyn and her herd was extremely calming and grounding. In my first session she had me walk amongst her herd and choose the horse that I wanted to work with. I believe that horse chose me, his name is JW. I immediately enjoyed my time working with Kristyn and JW. She had me halter him and walk him through obstacles. During one session she asked me to make JW stand still while I walked a circle around him without holding onto him in any way, I struggled. I tried repeatedly but he kept moving. Kristyn coached me to think about how I would treat him if he was my child or student and my only tactic was negotiation which does not work with horses. Finally, she showed me how to stand in front of him, pull on his halter under his chin, then set down the lead and walk with purpose around him. He was perfect for her and in that moment I had the sudden epiphany that I had no clear boundaries.
I often tell people that JW taught me I had no boundaries. This news was as overwhelming as it was crystal clear. In that moment, the horse reflected me right back onto me, as if he was my mirror. I understood how in my desire to be liked and validated by others I was constantly willing to give up bits of myself so as not to push away those closest to me including my children, my husband, my step children, my former students, and my employees. I was wishy washy in my relationships and I found myself bending like balsa wood and making excuses for the behavior and choices of others, especially my immediate family.
Setting boundaries with teenagers and a husband after years of not having them is not easy or fun. To this day I get push back and called selfish by my own kids when I set clear boundaries.
With Kristyn’s encouragement I attended training for equine therapy certification where I met an amazing group of horse lovers each there with their own story of how horses reflected back to them the exact lessons they needed to learn. While I was in training one participant had an epiphany in front of all of us. The task was to create an obstacle course and to get the horse from point A to point B. He had his aha moment realizing how much he complicates what can be very simple in life. It was amazing to watch his lightbulb turn on as he saw the way the lesson generalized to his entire life.
Horses are majestic and smart and they read our energy and reflect it back to us. If I’m fearful they know. If I’m confident they also know. Being around horses is grounding and enlivens your senses. The mud underneath your feet, the smell of manure, and the earthy feeling of running your hands across their backs are all sensory input. Equine therapy is effective for helping with healing from the emotional mindf**k of cancer or other life threatening illnesses, addictions, eating disorders, ADHD, boundary issues and so much more.
I have two full size horses here at Thrive Farm and two minis joining us this week that needed to be rehomed. Currently my horse-teacher, JW is at my farm visiting as well, while Sienna, one of my horses is being trained at Solia Farm. He needed some fattening up and my pasture has been good for him and he has been good for me.