The Human-Horse Dynamic
It seems as though in the past several years, there has been a dramatic increase in the ways people are exploring horse/human relational work and the number of terms that have been added to the word “Equine.” There is Equine Guided Education, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy, Equine Assisted Learning, Equine Assisted Coaching, and Equine Experiential Learning just to name a few.
I’m not a therapist and I don’t practice horse assisted therapy, but, at the same time, I’ve seen dramatic changes and shifts toward wholeness and healing occur when the right horse and the right person are brought together with the right guidance and facilitation. My work in particular with at-risk youth has demonstrated time and again, what a powerful experience it can be to have a horse mirror a youth’s state of mind and attitude while a gifted facilitator brings this mirroring into conscious awareness for the youth.
At the risk of adding more vowels to the acronym soup that is horse/human relational work, I’ve identified the area of Equine Assisted Empowerment as being the best descriptor of what I do. My experience is that when people experience trauma, grief, prolonged periods of stress, or face rapid and unexpected change or transition, they tend to lose their sense of personal power. They feel weak, disconnected, tentative, tired and ineffective. They may also become fearful, angry, or depressed. This disempowerment also manifests as a questioning of:
Who we are (identity)
Why we are here (purpose)
How effective we are (self-confidence)
Why everything feels so challenging (energetic imbalance)
I chose to call what I do, Windhorse Path because of my great respect for the wisdom traditions of native horse peoples from the high plains of the Americas to the steppes of Mongolia to the mountains of Tibet. In Tibet the word that translates as Windhorse means spirit and power. I believe that my real work, in the dance that is relationship building between horse and human, is helping people rediscover and reconnect to their own personal power, hence, Equine Assisted Empowerment.
Working with and around horses is a powerful way of realigning and reconnecting with your own personal power. The cultures that have lived most intimately with horses, have had a deep understanding of their relationship to their horses and the world around them. At it’s most basic that just means that they understand that everything that manifests in the material world unfolds from an unseen pattern. Understanding that pattern and how it guides the way we express ourselves allows us to better understand our own behaviors and make clearer choices. Horses are highly sensitive, intelligent creatures. Living and working with them can help us better understand ourselves, our patterns, and our world.
My vision is that as Equine Assisted Empowerment, Windhorse Path will expand to include a non-profit designed to serve youth and young adults in transition to adult life (with all the challenges that implies) who may not otherwise have access to this transformative experience. I also hope to serve adults experiencing life-altering transitions in and out of careers, relationships, states of health, and stages of life through the non-profit. I believe that working with horses combined with mindfulness, cross cultural studies, and the arts allows us to focus on the four “C’s” of meaningful life:
Nurturing Creativity; and
I use a framework adapted from work my husband, Tom, pioneered around the wisdom traditions of our stone age ancestors. That philosophy is based on the principal that the world we see has a subtle energetic quality by which we might say that everything is alive, conscious, dynamic, interconnected, and responsive. Working from this perspective with horses takes the idea of natural horsemanship a step further. It allows us to engage with horses in ways that are deeper and more meaningful than simply horse and rider. While I train and teach riding, it is not to produce competitive riders but to nurture those who relate to their horses in ways that allow them to ride with confidence, courage, compassion and a deep awareness of their own energy and the energy of their horses.