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.
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.