Linda Aldrich, EAAT Director/Founder
The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth
Even though the holidays are officially over, some of us continue to work through the feelings that came up last month. For many, the holidays can be trying times that leave us emotionally full - and not in a good way. That which is hard to digest can sometimes weigh heavy on humans. Today in our out -patient group, at Aurora Santa Rosa, that is what the energy felt like…heavy. During our check in most all of our patients had something to share with the exception of one woman. We’ll call her Catherine. [We never use our patients’ real names in order to protect their identity].
It was Catherine's first time in our out- patient group. When it was her turn to share, she smiled but declined to say anything. Horses are much better at reading situations than we are. Their ability to comprehend discrepancy in their environment-or in this case with a human's body language and nonverbal cues-is extremely accurate. Reading between the lines is what our horses do best.
As if on cue, Sweetie immediately walked over to Catherine and hovered in her heart space. Catherine seemed surprised, but also grateful for her company . I could see that Sweetie was sharing information with Catherine. That prompted me to ask her what she thought Sweetie's message to her was. Catherine again smiled but declined to respond.
As Sweetie departed, Sierra immediately stepped in as if to take her place. Similar to Sweetie's gesture, Sierra looked as if she was mothering and smothering Catherine with a combination of comfort and concern. As only our horses can do, Sierra's presence prompted Catherine's walls to come tumbling down and the tears began to flow. This time Catherine spoke. It's going to be ok she said. I'm going to be ok. As it turned out Catherine had lost her Mother at Christmas time last year. The anniversary of her loss had sent Catherine reeling into a deep dark depression that nearly ended her life too.
Sharing her loss and feeling the comfort from both of the horses seemed to give Catherine a newfound strength. Hugging the horses on her way out, Catherine said the message from the horses felt like the healing hug she so desperately wanted and needed from her own Mother. Intuitively, Sweetie and Sierra's horse sense, sensed this, and they delivered.
Every Friday we have the opportunity to witness our horsepower helping humans move from head to heart and heal their soul. On this day we met Jacob; a young man who seemed to have lost his way in the world. Though emotionally struggling and in a state of disconnect he agreed to participate in an exercise with Sierra. They began their walk with the goal set to connect head to heart. Jacob would step and stop, with Sierra waiting patiently for him to proceed. Several times Jacob would come to an abrupt halt and appeared to be working through an internal struggle to remain present in his body. At one point, Sierra nudged him to move forward, and with one hand on her body for support he was able to reconnect to his body and continue walking.
Upon his return several minutes later, Jacob was visibly shaken. When I asked him what the experience was like for him, he said with Sierra's support he had just gone on a journey that spanned his entire life. When I said I noticed that you stopped a couple times. Where were you, I asked? He replied that in the past his go to behavior was always to run away from his problems. This time he was able to hold tight to both Sierra and his life without running away.
It was a breakthrough moment for Jacob, one that allowed him to work through his past and arrive firmly in the present. The take- away for Jacob was the profound realization that he had a choice, and with Sierra’s help he was ready to take the reins of life and stay the course using newfound strength from his therapy horse.
Each and every Friday I see our horses taking humans out of the dark and into the light. In the process they feel alive, but most importantly- they feel like living again.