Allow me to go on a tangent…
As both a life coach, and someone who had experienced profound healing in the context of relationship with horses, I wanted to share this with others. Figuring that it might be good to get some specific training here, I read everything I could get my hands on about equine facilitated work, and chose a training to participate in.
This new field was and is, as diverse as the people blazing trails through it. Something in me felt uneasy about a lot of what I was seeing, at times with the formulaic approach to exercises with the horses, at times with the lack of awareness about what the horses were actually saying, and almost always with the amount of projection that was happening; overlaying the human perspective onto horses.
I flew out to Wisconsin on a hot June weekend, excited to be around people who were doing this work. Everyone there was well intentioned. Everyone there truly cared about people, and horses. And people were being helped. There wasn’t anything BAD happening. Yet, as I sat watching, and later participating, my stomach and jaw clenched, feeling my own fight/flight/freeze response fully activated, I tried to understand my aversion. I couldn’t leave fast enough. All I knew was that whatever was happening there was not something I could be part of.
It took me years to recognize what I was responding to out there; years of turning back to the horses to show me how to be with them, and examining my own paradigms to discover what was driving me. It reminded me of when I was studying natural horsemanship, and there were thoughts and ideas that sounded so good, but the execution of them left a bad taste in my mouth, and when it came to what my horses thought, they were telling me that there’s more. I had to believe there was more to this intersection of horse training and people healing.
It came down to starting points.
It almost always does.
We don’t question them, yet they shape the entire conversation.
Now, all these years later, I recognize it. How do we see horses?
I promise you this… how we see horses will reveal how we see ourselves. This is not unique to horses. It’s true of everything. Only, with horses, when we project our own stuff on them, and things go sideways, it gets our attention.
Are they there to heal us? (Forgive my involuntary shudder.)
When we see them as an extension of our need (just like in anything else), we miss the gift they bring of themselves.
When we see them as having a ‘job’ that justifies their existence, it would serve us well to ask where we see ourselves in that light.
When we see them as ‘reflecting our energy’, or ‘being a mirror for us’, we’re missing the gift of who they are, and the feedback they bring to each interaction. They’re not a static mirror, they offer dynamic feedback about what we bring, NOT by mirroring us, but by their honest reactions to what we offer.
It’s so much easier to project human-centric meaning onto them, onto their actions, and onto our relationships with them, than to stand in the face of their responses, honor their voice, and own what is ours.
Here’s the thing. When it stops being all about us, we begin to align with reality.
That’s not an easy thing to do, or place to get to. But, as we align with reality, we can see ourselves, see what drives us, what triggers us, what scares us, what moves us. Horses do a powerful job of revealing who we are, if we’re willing to listen. And as we change, they are more willing than most people, to change with us.
Remember the part about each of us being in our own space, each of us owning our own experience? It’s there. The magic is there. The healing is there. And the coolest thing about it, is that the horses are already there. That’s their native land.