A Tale of Horses, Rocking Chairs and Hearts

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There once was a suburban gal named Beth who loved animals–except, perhaps, reptiles and amphibians, actually primarily mammals–but had never spent any time around horses.

One day, she met another gal named Kellie.  Beth and Kellie hit it off because they both love helping people, especially people who struggle with addiction.

Kellie told Beth all about her work as a mental health professional who specializes in equine therapy.  The next thing Beth knew, a few weeks had passed and she found herself standing in a pasture talking to four horses.

The beautiful mission of equine therapy

Yes, that was me, just a few days ago.  Thank you TONS to Kellie Schriver at The Stages of Change Equine Therapy in Celina, TX, who hosted Becky and me.

Truth be told, I thought we were driving an hour out into the country northeast of Dallas to learn about Kellie’s program.  I was just along for the ride; after all, I don’t really work in the addiction and mental health field (though I live in recovery).  Becky is the professional and I’m the writer having experiences.

Oh, how I loved this experience with the horses!

To be sure, Kellie did show us how she presents The Stages of Change program to her clients.

We began in her office–a converted horse stall in the barn–with the three of us sitting in rocker/glider chairs. Turns out the forward-back motion you get in a glider or rocker/glider provides a means of helping the brain do a little self-healing.  Kellie says there is an entire science behind how the movement can actually create new pathways in the brain.

Of course, I have to be willing to let go of the habit of thinking the thoughts that are entrenched in the old  pathways and that’s a different post for a different day.

The back-and-forth motion also replicates the gentle gait of a horse.  Ahhhhh, you’re thinking . . . rhythmic riding. You’re getting the picture, aren’t you?

There’s so much to learn about the science, Kellie’s program (check it out here), and yes, the horses.

The heart  of this horse story

Eventually we ended up outside with the horses.   Kellie explained that horses mirror the relationships in our lives.  I’ve since read that horses serve as a metaphor for the emotional states we carry around with us.

Here’s an example:  As we stood in the pasture and talked, one of the horses repeatedly walked over and stood with his head very close to me.

Kellie applied gentle pressure to his chest and pushed him back several steps.  He walked back to me.

Finally, she said, “How are you feeling about the horse being so close to you?”  I replied, joking, “This horse needs a lesson in boundaries!”

Kellie asked, “Does he remind you of anyone in your life right now?”

Bam!  Yes!  So I told her about a situation that was kind of bugging me and we talked about ways I could handle it.

Then she told me that people are like horses.   When you approach them gently and with love, applying a little, not a lot, of pressure, they usually respond well.

As our time to leave drew near, I asked Kellie if I could say goodbye to the Paint horse who had been in my face an hour before.  By this time, he was grazing way out in the pasture.

She whistled to the Paint who came trotting to us.  He came right to me, muzzle to my chest.  Kellie said he was going for my heart.  Unconditional love.

Then, out of nowhere, the Arabian–the only one of the four who remained far out in the field the entire time we IMG_2074were there–galloped toward me, presumably a little jealous of the Paint.

Suddenly, I stood facing both horses, the Paint a little off to my left and the Arabian a little to my right.

Kellie said, “Do you see the outline of the heart in the space between their heads?”

Oh boy, did I ever!

There were so many moments of joy that morning, enough for me to thoroughly understand how Kellie’s clients receive huge benefits from their time at The Stages of Change.  I’m so grateful for mine.

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11 Comments

  1. Sweet story, Beth. Thank you. I’ve heard so many cool things about equine therapy, and you bring us yet another fine story. Now quit horsin’ around and get back to work ; )

    Bill

    • Beth says:

      But it’s 10:00 at night, Bill! I’ll keep working if you will! I’d rather horse around . . .

      Thanks for you ongoing and incredible support. You are appreciated!

  2. Peggy says:

    Beth, this gave me goosebumps. I grew up with horses and boy, do they ever respond to human emotions. I am so glad you had this experience and shared it with us!

    Pegy

    • Beth says:

      I’m so glad you liked it, Peggy. That means a lot coming from someone with horse experience. All week I’ve thought of the horses and there have been several nights when I’ve gone to sleep thinking, “what would the horses do?”

      Thanks so much for dropping off a comment. Welcome and please visit again!

  3. Don’t you just love how you’ll find wisdom in the least likely places – simply by being open to going along. This is a wonderful story and the picture – wow! – I loved the rocking chair part, too – makes me want to get one ASAP as I’m always on the hunt for ways of “helping the brain do a little self-healing.” Thanks for reminding us that self-discovery comes in so many, many forms.

    • Beth says:

      I knew that brain thing would get your attention, Lisa! And I’m with you on begging a glider or rocking chair; it was definitely soothing out at the ‘ole farm!

  4. Dustin John says:

    Great story and information. Had no idea horses were used for therapy. Awesome.

    • Beth says:

      Thanks Dustin! So glad you enjoyed the story; I’m glad you stopped by for a comment. Please come back any time!

  5. Herby Bell says:

    Beth,

    My understanding and appreciation deepens as you share this fascinating story of our interspecies interrelatedness!

    You’ve evoked yet another insight I had at my one and only Equine Therapy experience. I felt profound sadness immediately in the presence of the therapy horses. As if I could hit the deck and cry for a montha’ Sundays.

    I jumped into my head instead…and projected it onto the history of horse domestication, but now realize, thanks to you, it was my sadness being on a property/treatment facility where my son started his addiction recovery journey years prior. The treatment that removed yet more layers of our family’s intergenerational healing journey including that sadness. Hey, today’s Sunday…

    Corrals of gratitude, wise lady!

    • Beth says:

      Oh Herby, what treasured memories. My gosh, how deeply our wounds extend, but how gratifying when we realize that the healing can be inversely proportional. So glad you soulfully worked through your experience with the horses. I’m looking forward to doing that as well.

      Here’s to keeping those corral gates wide open!

      Happy trails to you!

  6. LaDonna says:

    Hey Beth, this touches my heart. I grew up with horses and one in particular was often my best, and sometimes it felt like, only friend. He was HUGE. I had to stand on a hay bale to saddle and then climb up on his back. I always loved his deep color, incredible strength (which sometimes scared me a little) and most of all that soft muzzle and big all knowing eyes. I spent countless hours with this creature, often leaning against his strong chest, stroking his neck and feeling so connected to him, trusting him when everything else seemed overwhelming. He was far more than horse to me – he truly was a friend. Oh, and his name, Babe. 🙂

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