The Release Valve

As a part of my preparation for a lesson on pressure and release for our upcoming HERD Institute module, I typed those words into google to see what came up.  Google gave me three auto choices: pressure and release natural horsemanship, pressure and release model, and pressure cooker.  Each of these choices ended up relating to my train of thought on release and connection.

First, the natural horsemanship approach.  For those familiar with Parelli or Monty Roberts, you have probably heard of the pressure and release game or technique.  It involves working with a horse at liberty (loose with no tack), typically in a round pen.  The human stands in the middle and uses pressure (this can vary in intensity from a look at the hind end to much higher energy activity, rope throwing or waving, and noise making) to get the horse to move. When the horse responds in the desired fashion the pressure is removed (often by turning away or looking away)  eventually, the horse will “join up” with the human and come to the center or follow from a distance.  There are varying followers and naysayers of this type of training.  An interesting study in 2012 mimicked the movements of a human applying and releasing pressure with a remote control car.  The study argues that the car was able to achieve the same result as the human thus denouncing the theory that horses are “joining up” with their human counterparts due to a connection or relationship.  They argue that the horse is, in fact, responding to the expectation that the pressure will re-appear.  Essentially, the horse is responding out  of fear of the pressure or comfort in the safety of the release.  There are alternative schools of training that apply a release method without pressure; however, when watching videos of these training methods, a certain amount of pressure is still applied.  it is a calmer pressure, a pressure of  intent, but pressure non the less.  The topic of pressure came  up in several posts I saw this week, mainly referring to feel and contact with the bit when riding.  pressure is a part of our relationship with our horses.  We can apply pressure intentionally or unintentionally.  We can be aware of the pressure we apply or unaware.  However it is transferred, pressure will become a part of our conversation with our horses.

The second search topic that came up was the Pressure And Release Method (PAR).  Social and environmental scientists use the PAR model to conceptualize social vulnerability of a population to recover from natural disasters.  They measure how likely a community is to be resilient in the face of devastation based on socioeconomic factors, urban/rural living, and geography.  This model focuses on economic resilience and the likelihood that a community can rebuild infrastructure and economy.  The model surmises that communities that have few resources, live in tight quarters and lack public institutions will be less likely to recover than communities experiencing the same disaster with access to resources, education, free enterprise, etc.  Essentially, a community already struggling to survive will be less likely to recover from a disaster.  This model leaves out  the human emotion factor.  It does not take into consideration the connections between neighbors and how a well connected community might be able to decrease their vulnerability by pooling even meager resources more effectively than an unconnected community working alone to overcome the disaster.

Both  of these topics bring up an internal personal process of how we relate to pressure and the release of pressure.  How do we apply pressure in our relationships with others?  what pressures do we put on ourselves?  Do we attempt to control the movements of an other with the pressure we apply?  Do we have the connections and social resources to be resilient in the face of personal crisis?  What happens to all of that pressure?  The last search topic that came up was pressure cooker.  Pressure cookers work off intense heat and steam.  The pressure must be discharged by pushing a release valve.  If you attempt to just take the top off a pressure cooker without releasing the valve it will blow up on you.  What does release look like relative to interpersonal or internal pressure?  is it a full letting go, or a subtle back and forth feel?  how do we practice and achieve release within ourselves and with others?

Our relationship with our horses as well as with each other are based on pressure or release.  I believe these exist on a continuum.  Without some form of pressure there is nothing to release from and with no release, relationships become more and more intense and uncomfortable under relentless pressure.  We can work on being more aware of  the dialectic between pressure and release in our relationships.

 

How to choose equine therapy partner(s)

The topic of what horses should we use for a session has come up in my work recently, so I thought I would share some insights on how to choose your equine partners for sessions and in general how to decide if a horse if a good fit for equine assisted psychotherapy work.

First off, I’ve heard a lot of varying answers to the question of how do I choose a horse(s) for a session.  Often the answer is “any horse can be an EAP horse, they don’t even have to be sound since they aren’t being ridden.”  I’m about to debunk that myth.  I’ve also heard “they have to be really quiet.  The older the better.”  yep, we’ll address that one too.  lastly, “Any horse that does therapeutic riding can be an EAP horse, we use EAP sessions to give our horses a break from their riding lessons.”

Choosing, listening to, and maintaining the herd is the most important job an equine specialist performs.  How you go about doing this job will depend on many factors, including how many horses your facility can manage.  I think that many horses have the potential to be good equine therapists.  I also think, like with any other job a horse might have, some have a natural talent for the work and others can learn the job really well.  There are also some that are not suited to this type of work, don’t enjoy it, or need special care and consideration.

Lets look at the suitability of the horse for psychotherapy sessions through three lenses.  First, we’ll address physical soundness and safety.  Second, the emotional safety of your equine partner.  and Lastly, addressing the environment, and physical and emotional safety of the people involved in the session.

Physical Safety

Horses must be physically capable of doing any job we ask them to perform.  The soundness expected of an upper level dressage horse is going to differ greatly from that of a therapeutic riding horse or an equine assisted psychotherapy horse; yet, this remains an important issue to consider.  Horses being used in my sessions are mostly at liberty, meaning they typically have the ability to move freely around whatever space we are using.  In this work, we are asking people to go with the flow and become more flexible.  We have to bring this mindset to the table when choosing horses for sessions.  While a horse can have a chronic issue that may result in their being unable to be a competition horse, or in some cases a riding horse, the horse must be comfortable and not have restrictions placed on its level of exercise.  Often, our intended activity for the day may simply be to go out and spend time with the horse or horses.  For example:  We may assume that since the activity doesn’t involve much movement that we can test out Polly who has been on stall rest for three weeks healing some type of leg injury and is now receiving short hand walking and turn out.  Our nervous first time clients enter the ring and Polly takes off running.  We immediately start to worry about Polly re-injuring herself and our energy level rises.  Our clients sense this and they start to feel emotionally unsafe.  Their energy rises.  Polly runs more.  This scenario is a recipe for disaster.  Rule #1: your horse must be generally healthy and not on any physical restrictions,  no matter what activity is planned.  by setting up you sessions without physical restrictions you are setting up  an environment that allows you to trust the process.  This space is more emotionally safe for your staff, volunteers and clients.

Emotional Safety

Horses are keyed into human emotions on a deep level.  In turn, they are emotional creatures themselves.  I talked about human emotional safety in a past post.  Horses have emotional safety needs as well.  One of the keys here is you have to know your horses well.  You have to have spent some time around them and have some ideas of their typical behavior so that you can be aware of changes in that behavior.  Horses absorb the “stuff” that we and our clients bring into the ring.  Typically they release this stuff through physical activity–running, rolling, etc.  It is vital that we are observing our horses for signs of stress and giving them ample time to de-stress through turnout.  Sessions, while at liberty and possibly even in a pasture, are not turn-out time.  In general, horses that are well suited for EAP will take care of themselves emotionally whether it be in the middle of a session or during turn-out time.  It is  important to note signs of burnout in your EAP horse.   If your horse has lost the softness in their eye, has turned to nipping every chance they get, picks up habits such as weaving or cribbing, runs and snorts at the slightest thing consistently when they were previously calm and level headed, or balks at joining a session, they are telling you something.  Hopefully you are listening.  We can talk about managing burnout  in therapy horses in another post.  Some horses will have the above behaviors from day one when introduced to psychotherapy work.  They too are telling you something.  They might be the greatest riding pony in your center.  They don’t want to play psychotherapist.  You wouldn’t ask a horse that trips over cross rails to jump a four foot fence.  Don’t ask your best riding horse to be a psychotherapist when he’s clearly telling you its not his thing.  Conversely, don’t make assumptions that a horse will not be a good psychotherapy horse because they don’t like doing the sensory trail with your autistic students.  Some of the best therapists I’ve met have been horses that don’t quite fit anywhere else.  Use them in a session and they are suddenly in their element.  These horses are naturals for psychotherapy sessions, they don’t need any practice.  Other horses will learn the job over time.  They may seem slightly aloof at first, or act as if they are on turn-out, but they will come around after three or four sessions they will show similar natural comfort in a session.

Environment

Plan your location ahead.  If you have horses with sugar sensitivities and you are concerned about their eating grass don’t conduct your session in the lush pasture.  If the pasture is the only space available, make sure your horses are able to safely manage grass turnout.  Likewise, make sure your footing is safe for those unplanned moments.  If you are concerned about slick footing, move your session elsewhere.  When you set up your session ahead with the ability to trust the process and allow things to happen you will set up an environment for everyone involved to feel safe both physically and emotionally.

 

Please stop fighting over hashtags

I revised this post based on some clarification I had to my early morning thoughts.

Orlando, Baghdad, Turkey, Paris, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas, they all hurt.  What currently haunts my thoughts and hurts my mind is how the events of the past two days have turned from news stories and outrage over violence to a fight over hashtags.  fighting over hashtags will not end hate (if anything it simply fuels it.)  Hashtags don’t reflect our actions.  Our actions reflect our actions.  Social media is a double edged sword.  While we think it is connecting us it is slowly driving us apart.  Fighting over how you’ve posted or what way you’ve expressed that you are outraged by violence is like monday morning armchair quarterbacking.  Get off the web and go talk to people.  Go make eye contact with someone.  Show people their lives matter by doing something that actually effects another human being directly.  Join the fight directly.  Do something real.

Over the past 14 years I’ve had an opportunity to listen to a lot of people.  One of the things I love most about my job is listening to people’s stories.  I’ve listened to stories of people from all races, religions, socio-economic classes, political parties; straight, gay, transgender; physically and mentally ill, perpetrators and victims of violence.  I’ve heard stories that make my head spin and my heart hurt.  I’ve helped people find strength to face challenges that I can never imagine having to face.  I’ve listened and I’ve learned.  I’ve learned that people are people.  I realize that I may sound somewhat naïve coming from a suburban straight white female, but I don’t think it is.  each of us is an individual.  We are all different and we all see the world from our own lens.  Its the human condition.  There is only one way to bridge the gaps between us (the ones that seem to be getting wider with each tweet).  We need to share our stories.  Violence is reactionary.  That’s not to say that there isn’t straight-up evil out there, but much of what we currently live with is reactionary.  As humans we struggle to avoid what we perceive as negative or weak (hurt, shame, embarrassment, fear) and we cover these emotions with anger and aggression.  We stop thinking and react.  People get hurt physically and emotionally and the cycle continues and grows.

How do we stop the cycle?  How do we stop reacting to images, stereotypes, assumptions and judgments?  How do we give a voice to those who feel mute?  We have to share our stories.  We have to ask others to share their stories with us.  We have to listen with our whole being and learn from each other.  I can’t see the world through your lens unless you share it with me.  But once you share it with me, it can change my lens.  It can alter my perception of you, of the judgments I’ve already made or didn’t even realize I’d made until I learned more.  It can open my lens to other possibilities, to see injustice in the world and to take each person, each event in my life as individual.  It can cause me to ask questions rather than fire judgment.  I’ve learned not to make assumptions.  When I see you as a person, I might see some aspect of myself.  When we connect we find common ground.  When we find common ground we want to build each other up, not tear each other apart.  When I see you as a person, it breaks a piece off the wall of whatever ism you may be fighting.  When I listen to your story it gives you a voice.  When we share our hurt it softens our anger and takes power away from fear.

We all want a voice, to be heard and acknowledged.  That is the heart of the black lives matter movement: “It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”  (blacklivesmatter.com)  When we are heard and acknowledged it levels the isms and connects us on a deeper level.  This is what we all need as humans.  We need to have our stories heard, our hurt acknowledged, our strengths and contributions recognized.  We can’t go back or change what has happened but we can chose how to move forward.

Share your stories face to face.  Love each other for being different.  Listen.  Be human.

 

emotional safety. what it is and how to find it.

I facilitated an interesting session this week that has me thinking about emotional safety.  I think we as a human race can get stuck in an ugly place with this concept.  I’ve read posts that talk about students requiring special rooms on college campuses (ok, that was a spoof, but not far from reality) safe words and edited content.  We’ve gone far beyond banning books to banning concepts.  We don’t know how to handle conflicting viewponts so we avoid, blame, and sue.

What exactly is emotional safety?  And more importantly, how do we achieve it?  Emotional safety is self trust.  When we are able to trust our instincts and given space to grow and learn from mistakes, then we are able to develop trust in our gut.  We can be aware of our emotions and feel free to share them with others.  Emotional safety is not the absence of uncomfortability, embarassment or fear.  It is being able to hold and experience all of those “yucky” emotions in an allowing space.

How do we achieve that?  Sometimes achievement can be difficult in a walking-on-eggshells society where we don’t know who might be offended if we share our opinion or try something different.  We have so many rules and expectations that must be met NOW.  We’ve put these standards in place so as not to offend anyone and in the end we end up feeling so confused and fearful we don’t even know what bathroom to go in.

The group I worked with this week truly opened my eyes to the gravity and importance of emotional safety.  They identified their anxiety and linked it directly to the fact that they are so used to functioning in a world full of rules that when they were placed in a situation where they had none they didn’t know what to do and they freaked out. They lacked self trust.  They relied so much on  being given the answers (or being corrected)that they didnt initially think to look inside themselves for the answers (they had them).  The horses helped them move from a place of emotional insecurity to one of increased group and self trust as the session progressed.  They gained individual insights, growth, and learning.

The larger metaphor can be applied to so many areas of our society from education to parenting to public bathroom disputes to foreign relations.  We must find a balance, a sense that we can be safe being ourselves.  We need to interact with each other in a way that encourages individuality, but more importantly, development of emotional safety fom within.  Allowing ourselves to experiment, make mistakes, trust our gut, be present and grow in wisdom.  Developing emotional safety in children will leave us with a next generation of adults that excel not only in school, but in life.  Developing it within ouselves and our work place teams will open new doors to creativity and invention.  Developing emotional safety in our culture will create an environment of acceptance and peace

How do we make such a change? Change starts fom within.  Start to be kinder and softer on yourself.  Spend more time being in the moment and less time worrying.  Reconnect with your gut and trust yourself.  This takes work, effort and focus.  Build outward.  Approach others with compassion and softness, allowing them the opportunity trust themselves, to think critically and grow.  Apply an environment of true emotional safety to work teams and small group policies.  Build it into the framework of your organization and it will spread.

The horses model this so well.  Every horse has a place in the herd and they lift each other up rather than build walls and write rules to tear each other down.  In the pasture there is only one unwritten rule.  Respect.  Respect for self and respect for the herd.

 

The Heart of the Matter Part II

In Part I I looked at Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Relational Frame Theory applied in the arena.  But there is a deeper level, the level where we can be at loss for words, the level bystanders may refer to as “magic.”

It is this second layer that is key to why horses can help rebuild the flexibility needed to perform higher level cognitive behaviors.  When a person experiences trauma, struggles with psychosis, has a traumatic brain injury, or is otherwise neurologically impaired, the brain loses its ability to flex.  The frontal lobe goes offline and much decision making is done out of habit and/or through the limbic system.  The role of therapy at this point is often to address issues related to a lack of flexibility including decreased ability to communicate effectively, isolation, avoidance and inability to perspective take.  Being in the presence of horses seems to turn something on in the human directly related to this process.  When in the presence of horses, we find ourselves able to focus more fully and truly be present.  My own work shows this anecdotally and through outcomes.  Several recent studies have utilized measures that look at mindfulness or being present.  The ability to be mindful increases with equine assisted psychotherapy intervention.  (Earles, 2015)

We also begin to make associations or metaphors when allowed to spend time on the ground with horses.  I recently participated in a demonstration of several mindfulness exercises with horses.  Each of the six participants naturally started drawing metaphors/connections to their own lives based off their experiences with the horses.  There was no mention from the facilitators to include these thoughts as we did the exercise (move with the horse of your choice).  There was no processing after the experience to draw these metaphors out.  they happened organically and internally in each of the participants.  Metaphor, if you recall from English class, is a form of analogy.  Recall that RFT is based on understanding the human brain’s ability to create associations between various contexts–including metaphors.  In doing so, we are practicing cognitive flexibility.  utilizing flexibility and analogy can start to open doors and unlock areas that have been stuck.  We often see clients project onto the horses as well.  The horses take on personas of the client or other people in the client’s life.  This separating of self can begin to set up an understanding of self-as-context for the client.  They may start to identify that they are separate from their illness or trauma.  In this they may also start to practice cognitive diffusion skills, realizing that their thoughts are simply that.

Horses can be excellent mentors for another point addressed by ACT, namely acceptance.  Acceptance has several levels in and of itself.  It asks us to let go of experiences but also to be willing to allow experiences to come as they will.  Have you ever watched a horse in a field when a loud noise or other spook-worthy event occurs?  The horse will typically look up, ears perked, possibly snort or even turn and run a suitable distance from the object or noise.  Once in a zone deemed to be far enough from danger, the horse will return to grazing.  Clients will often remark on these behaviors in the horses, noting that they wish they could be accepting of what life hands them.  The truth is that we can be.  We can learn to let go, to allow, and to stay present.  Oftentimes, just observing this behavior in another creature is enough to spark motivation within ourselves.  When we start to do these things: to be in the moment, to accept life as it comes, to become aware of our thoughts and to realize that we are not the moments that have happened before and they do not fully define us,  this is when we start to develop motivation to move forward with our lives.  This is the point where we can truly begin to partake in committed action.  This is where we realize what we value most in life and start to live for those values.  The horses do that for us.  Not because a therapist gives us activities to complete to teach us skills, but because we show up and are open to learning from the best therapists of all.

—

references:

Earles, J. L., Vernon, L. L., & Yetz, J. P. (2015). Equine‐assisted therapy for anxiety and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Journal Of Traumatic Stress, 28(2), 149-152. doi:10.1002/jts.21990

The Heart of the Matter

I’ve been trying to develop words for the concepts and connections that I understand in my head.  Recently, I attempted to share some of these insights with other like-minded folk at the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association’s 17th annual conference.  I think the presentation was well received, but I wouldn’t be me without coming up with additional answers and insights to questions asked during the presentation several hours after it was over.  As I tossed those thoughts around while trying to sleep I realized that I have a way to share those insights even though I may have missed the moment. this post will outline the connections I’ve made applying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in the arena.

In order to properly explain the concept, one first has to have an understanding of ACT as well as Relational Frame Theory (RFT) on which ACT is based.

Relational Frame Theory is a functional contextual approach to complex human behavior such as language and cognition (the stuff only human brains do).  It theorizes that we can learn by relating concepts based on similarity, opposition, distinction, hierarchy, analogy and temporality, among others.  In doing so, we affect our ability to use analogy, develop intelligence, and practice perspective taking. (Stewart, 2016)  So overall, this theory identifies how we use abstract ideas, develop the ability to have empathy, learn and create.  These are the behaviors that make us human; that give us the ability to communicate verbally with others, write books, create art, build bridges and move mountains.  These behaviors allow us to connect with others, build relationships and show empathy, understanding and compassion.  This is also where things break down, where we become stuck, rigid, fearful, anxious and avoidant.  You may have heard of the term cognitive flexibility.  RFT analyzes the behaviors that allow us to be flexible in our thinking, and also explains why we get so stuck and inflexible.  RFT has been tested and rigorously researched.  It has been studied in a lab where they have been able to create inflexibility as well as undo it.  (Stewart, 2016)

So what do you do when you figure out how the mind ticks, or rather comes to a screeching halt?  If you are Steven Hayes you create a therapy to re-build flexibility.  Hayes first published on Acceptance and Commitment therapy in 1999.  ACT identifies a framework of six core strategies that work to re-build cognitive flexibility.  These principles are self as context, values, contact with the present moment, cognitive diffusion, committed action, and acceptance. (Hayes, 2004)  Therapists utilizing ACT will teach clients skills to improve mindful awareness and ability to focus on the present moment, encourage willingness (acceptance) of internal experiences, cognitive diffusion skills to separate self from thoughts, and encourage development of values and action steps in service of those values.

These core principles and skills map nicely into equine assisted psychotherapy work.  It is important to understand that there are two layers on which these principles can be applied.  Lets look at the first layer: the therapist intervention.

A mental health professional could utilize specific activities to build skills such as mindfulness and cognitive diffusion as well as to help clients discover their values and practice committed actions.  ACT in and of itself is an experiential therapy utilizing metaphors and activities to explain the core concepts.  These metaphors can be taught and adapted to use in the arena.  By utilizing activities designed to teach basic skills, the basic tenants of ACT are at work and its heavily researched and highly effective process reaches your client.  Activities such as asking the client to breath with the horse, match their footsteps to the horse, or basic grounding or mindful walking activities can be used to teach mindfulness skills.  Diffusion is easily applied when processing, repeating a phrase or concept back to the client and inserting “so you were having the thought that…” or by utilizing a client’s metaphor to separate a concept from themselves.  From this we can develop self as context as well.  Ask the client to move a horse they have labeled as “broken,”  then process what it was like to move that, to see that it is separate from their self-identity.  We can set obstacles to represent goals and ask clients to move horses identified as their values toward those goals.  Activities such as this often uncover incongruence between what a client says they value an what they actually work toward.  Clients will often find themselves stuck until they find a resolution.

Some may be looking for a magic set of activities, but I find it more effective to teach the skills and metaphors and then work with what the client brings.  Pretty much any activity can lead to valuable material when ACT concepts are applied.

There is a deeper level where movement happens for our clients.  RFT and ACT play a part which I will examine in Part II.

 

references:

Stewart, Ian. (2016). The fruits of a functional approach for psychological science. International Journal of Psychology, 51(1), 5-27.

Hayes, S. (2004). Acceptance and Commmitment Therapy, Relational Frame Theory, and the Third Wave of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. Behavior Therapy 35, 639-665.

playing in the sandbox

I have a dream that one day people will truly understand and appreciate the connection we have with the other creatures on this planet.  That dream starts with bringing people and horses together. I want to see the Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies field grow and build connection and peace for all.

But we have to get along first.

I attended the PATH Int’l conference in November this year.  It was my first time at a PATH Int’l conference as a newly minted PATH member and also as a presenter.  I was excited not only to present but to get to meet others in the field and to gather as many new ideas as I could.  And learn I did.  I made wonderful and exciting connections and also learned a lot about how the field sees itself from the inside.  There was a lunch presentation that focused on a discussion of therapeutic riding instructors and their place in this growing field.  The room buzzed with energy as people asked questions of a panel.  Questions related to being paid, being recognized, not getting lost in a field that is becoming more and more based in various professional therapies and seemingly less therapeutic riding.  There appeared to truly be fear that somehow therapeutic riding as it traditionally has happened will be lost in the sea of equine assisted therapies.  I have to admit I was completely unaware of this factor prior to that lunch.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about it since then.  When I received feedback from my presentation (an overview of the program I run implementing equine assisted psychotherapy) which was in the psychotherapy track of the conference, I was again interested in comments that seemed somewhat linked to the above fear.  Several comments referred to the fact that our presentation was based in a specific model (EAGALA) and that we should research our audience prior to presenting as this was a PATH conference.  Others asked us to speak to application of our work within the context of therapeutic riding or equine assisted learning because this is a PATH conference for therapeutic riding instructors.

I’m a very analytical person.  so first, a little bit of history.

in 2010 the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association changed their name to the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship Int’l.  The purpose of this was to encompass both the organization’s international reach and the evolution of equine assisted activities and therapies to a point beyond the scope of simply therapeutic riding.  The EAAT field is multidisciplinary in nature.  We all believe that horses can help people grow and reach their goals.  Clients will come to us with many goals.  Goals that are physical, mental and spiritual in nature.  The creation of PATH Int’l created a doorway to house all of those disciplines under one umbrella.

Its raining.  We need to embrace the umbrella.

The EAAT field is at a place where truly together we will stand and divided we will fall.  The world is starting to notice that us “crazy horse people” may be onto something.  Quite often on the news, in the paper, or on social media you will see reports of people working with horses in various capacities to find healing.  But there is a long road ahead.  A road that requires scientific validation, research, collaboration, and openness.  We cannot work in silos doing our own thing and trying to sell our brand as better than the others.  We must embrace the culture of a multidisciplinary field.  We must start looking at what we do (no matter what we do with horses) as a healing practice and utilize the appropriate ethics, assessment tools, and disclosure to our clients.  We as EAAT professionals, no matter your discipline or training, must band together.  Just as every horse in the herd is accepted and has a purpose so to do all of our disciplines have a place in the EAAT herd.  Together we can create the dream we all have.  The dream where we get to help others find the power of horses.

So What do you do?…

…People often get a confused look when I say I do equine assisted psychotherapy.  “so you’re a horse shrink?”  Quite the opposite actually.  Equine assisted psychotherapy brings people and horses together to provide opportunities for personal growth and learning.  Basically I bring clients that I would typically see in an office out to the farm and turn them loose with horses.  So what happens when you turn people loose with horses?  Our four legged therapists become mirrors of behaviors, sources of connection, and mentors of living in the present moment.  People find answers to their questions, solutions to their problems, and new ways to connect with the people in their lives.  They find these things in a fraction of the time that it takes sitting in a chair surrounded by four walls.  Why horses?   I always found solace in my relationships with equines.  As a therapist, watching horses work with clients is as close as I will ever come to having the prophetic magic wand that so many people think I wield.  I love bridging my love of horses, mindfulness, the outdoors and nature.   I have a passion for teaching and for discovering answers to questions about how equine assisted psychotherapy works.  I want to see this field thrive and am committed to contributing to research in order to validate the work.  My interests expand beyond simply practicing equine assisted psychotherapy.  I have a passion for integrated medicine.  I have extensively studied the use of mindfulness and have an interest in learning more about Reiki, Yoga, somatic therapy and biomechanics.  In my study of holistic practices I have come to have a passion for food from local and sustainable sources and for teaching people how sustainable living can contribute to overall physical and mental health.   I would love to find a way to combine all of these passions into the vision of Zenquestrian LLC.

 

equine assisted and holistic services