Horses heal in many ways. Just hanging out with horses can be soothing to the soul. Among more guided approaches, there is equine assisted therapy which treats mental health issues. There is hippotherapy (or therapeutic riding) where people with disabilities, mostly children and youth, ride a horse with the assistance of trained instructors. (The riding stimulates the muscular and neurological systems as closely to walking as anything can. Not only that, the disabled person has the added benefit of being in relationship with a horse.) Then there is equine guided coaching and learning, which is the modality I use. This coaching-based approach assumes the client is creative, resourceful and whole, and that there is nothing to be fixed. The horses quickly and effectively go right to the heart of the matter of what you want to reflect on and resolve, without drama or judgment.
Equine guided coaching is used all over the world and in many different contexts. My special love is midlife women and older. It’s a juicy time of life, one that calls us to take a new look at who we are and what we want out of life. Just yesterday I had a woman out who is feeling stuck in her job, is doing too much for too many people, and has no time for herself. When we walked out into the pasture, Julia connected immediately with a mare who came running up to her. She ran her hands over Cosmo for several minutes while Cosmo grazed. It was as if Julia couldn’t stop her hands. After several minutes of this, I asked her about the constant movement.
She hadn’t even noticed. But observing herself in this way helped her realize how concerned she was about not doing enough. If she didn’t keep petting Cosmo over and over, over and over, maybe Cosmo would walk away. Maybe Julia’s presence would not be enough. In her mind she had to work very hard to earn connection. She could not stop working.
It was, she realized, also how she showed up in life. No wonder she was burned out. Somewhere along the line, the nurturing soul that she is had gone on automatic pilot, and she didn’t even realize it. She was not at choice about when to give of herself and to whom. Her well had run dry.
Horses and people have a long and ancient association. Study after study has shown that human beings benefit from regular contact with horses. Physically, the heart rate slows and blood pressure lowers. Emotionally, self-awareness and self-trust increases. Spiritually, horses can be a symbol of several archetypes such as freedom, power, magnificence or gentle soulfulness. Many report that equine guided coaching is a form of spiritual life coaching where women and men can say yes to positive transformation. Through equine guided coaching, many tap into the spirit of the horse and establish and maintain a unique and intimate relationship not only with the horses, but with themselves.
© Lynn Baskfield 2014
Lynn Baskfield, owner of SpiritDance Coaching, is an equine guided coach and educator doing individual coaching, retreats, and group workshops for spirited midlife women. www.equinecoaching.com.