Feed Your Herd, Feed Your Heart

*When the world gets too noisy, let’s come here. To the place where the horses graze and nudge and nicker. To where the hay sticks to your clothes and the sun shines down on grassy fields.
To the fields where we can be wholly present, where time slows down a bit and the beauty of the world comes into focus.*

The world has always been both incredibly beautiful and incredibly terrible. It has always been a masterpiece of despair and hope, a confluence of happiness and sorrow.

But, now, in today’s world we are positively inundated with information.
Research is saying that screen time is changing our brains. All of ours. Young and old alike. And one of the most interesting pieces of research says, we experience information overload from scrolling, reading the news, and answering our emails and texts. And that information overload registers in our brain as threat.
Our brain is convinced, that we are actively under threat every day because of the amount of information available to us.

It’s too much to decipher, too much to unwind.

When we believe we are under threat, the mechanisms in our brain shifts and we start to interpret the environment around us as threatening. We start to pick up on the threatening tone of the stranger walking past us, we notice the overwhelm and the difficulties of our day. We move away from connection and into protection.
We have trouble connecting to ourselves, our intuition, our decisions, our lovers, our families. Instead we protect. We turtle. We distance ourselves and isolate.

One of our biggest jobs of being human is reminding ourselves to not only track the threats. We must track the beauty. We have to work hard to choose connection.

We must dig deep into redirecting our thoughts, as if our own brains were the angsty toddler or the wild horse. Bring ourselves back into our bodies, into the moment, gently and purposefully. Remind ourselves that for every terrible thing, there is something beautiful.

Viktor Frankl is one of my absolute favorite individuals for this reminder. A man who found meaning in a death camp of the holocaust. A man who held onto hope in a situation entirely bereft of any decency. He states; “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

How can you increase your ability to track beauty? How can you trust that doing this will not threaten you- but instead will allow you to access balance in today’s very busy, very noisy world?

This Time of Intentionality

Intention matters. As a therapist, having intention and being intentional is necessary to being ethically congruent. As a mother and family member, it means presence. As an animal and land steward, it speaks to care.

However, since Covid has hit our world, intentionality seems to be getting mixed up with hyper vigilance.
These days every single thing we do has to be intentional. The days of spontaneity and frivolity seem far away.
What used to be normal, is no longer met with ease. Some of the ingrained and basic ways we used to communicate have been, irrevocably, shifted.
So, we have needed to shift our ways of relating and engaging.

And it is exhausting. Facing a new unknown each day, fueled our adrenaline and drained our nervous systems.

For a long time, we were all walking around in a state of hyper vigilance. We were constantly scanning for threats. And our brains were so keyed up to recognize threats that we started seeing them everywhere. The threats became so big, that we started persecuting each other.

“Can you believe she wears a mask everywhere!?”
“Can you believe he doesn’t?!”
“They vaccinated their children! How could they? What’s even in it?”
“They won’t get vaccinated, this is why we can’t get through this.”

It goes on. And on. And on. And even though Covid has shifted, its effects linger.

Just typing this up, makes my jaw tight. And my head hurt. It makes me angry and unsure.
(And as I name it to tame it, I breathe)

And throughout this adrenaline fueled crusading that our brains were doing, we were limited in our easy friendly connections. Our world view got smaller and smaller, as we insulated in a desire to protect ourselves. Our perspectives were shrinking and becoming more and more narrow. Causing us to believe our opinions more and more.
And, causing our flexibility to become more and more rigid. And while our connections diminished and shrunk, our access to information increased. This created a huge disruption in the balance of our systems.

As a result, we are still inundated with opinions, facts and information- and yet, we are still starving for touch, co-regulation and spontaneity.

The definition of intention is; a thing intended; an aim or plan. That lands. Almost all things these days take a plan of some kind…

But it also means; the healing process of a wound.

How beautiful is that? The healing process of a wound. So, maybe we can look at our need to be intentional as a healing process.
Let us use our intentionality to be aware of and breathe into our hyper vigilance.
Let us relax our vigilance, intentionally.
Let us create intentional spaces and in those spaces we can have spontaneity and frivolity.
Let us intentionally recognize our biases and try to balance them with compassion.
Let us notice our reactions and intentionally turn them into thoughtful responses




Equine Assisted Therapy: A Unique and Effective Intervention

Growing evidence supports the effectiveness of treatment with horses in a therapeutic environment. Studies have resulted in a body of literature supporting the therapeutic value of the human-animal interaction. Equine Assisted Therapy can help clients with depression, anxiety, ADHD, conduct disorders, addiction, trauma, eating disorders, spectrum and health difficulties, dissociative disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other mental health difficulties.

Read Full Article by Azmaira H. Maker Ph.D.

How Horses Heal Our Emotional Wounds

Unlike other equine health spa programs, which focus chiefly on horseback riding, the Equine Experience offers what it says is “a program designed to help participants challenge learned behaviors, correct false beliefs, and rediscover one’s authentic self.” This is accomplished not only by interacting with horses without any riding but in short periods of time. Tasks are simple and range from getting a horse to walk from point A to B without the aid of a halter and lead rope to picking up and cleaning each of a horse’s four feet.

Read Full Article by Tim Hayes

Horses can recognise human emotion, new study shows

“…’What’s really interesting about this research is that it shows horses have the ability to read emotions across the species barrier. We have known for a long time that horses are a socially sophisticated species but this is the first time we have seen that they can distinguish between positive and negative human facial expressions,’ said Amy Smith, a doctoral student in the university’s mammal vocal communication and cognition research group…”

Read the full article written by Tim Radford

Horsing Around in Childhood Really Can Change Your Life

We all know it’s true, but now there’s proof: horses have a positive effect on children.

A study published this month in the American Psychological Association’s Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin documents work done at Washington State University (WSU). The WSU study, “Randomized Trial Examines Effects of Equine Facilitated Learning on Adolescents’ Basal Cortisol Levels” is the first evidence-based research within the field of human-equine interaction to measure a change in participants’ levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The study is much more than a reinforcement of the “ feel-good” benefits of being around animals. In particular, the researchers designed the study to see if there was a way their research could be utilized in the prevention of mental health problems later in life…

Read the Full Article by Fran Jurga

The Science Of The Horse-Human Heart Connection

Read the Full Article by Berenika Bratny

“…Here comes the best part. They paired people with horses and measured their HRV [heart rate variability] in the same time. The result showed that people were able to relax and change their HRV in the presence of the horse. “It appeared that each person synchronized his or her particular HRV frequency cycle to match the horse’s specific frequency cycle.”

So this is why we want their company so much, we feel a strong urge to be around them because, unconsciously, we feel they might help us with as much as our lives. They are our healers. The more stressed we are, the more we seek them. The fact that later most of us is devoured by riding, jumping, competing seems even more sad and cruel now. Cruel both to the horse, but also to the man, who went to the stable to seek help and found violence instead…”

Not Just Horsing Around… Psychologists Put Their Faith in Equine Therapy

“Health professionals say horses can reflect our emotions to bring relief from addiction and stress” (McVeigh, 2012)

This article addresses the use of Equine Therapy with a variety of populations. It discusses the importance of the horse in the therapeutic process, outlining the unique healing properties the horse offers. It also references the research we do have regarding the impact horses can have on a human’s nervous system and brain waves.

McVeigh, T. (2012, February 25). Not just horsing around…psychologists put their faith in equine therapy. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/feb/26/horses-therapists-stress-autism-addiction?intcmp=239

Pet Therapy: How Animals and Humans Heal Each Other

“Those of us who own pets know they make us happy. But a growing body of scientific research is showing that our pets can also make us healthy, or healthier.” (Rovner, 2012)

This article discusses the use of animals in therapy and medical settings. It references research done through the years that shows the benefits of using animals for health and therapy practices. It references a particular equine therapy success story while outlining the potential biological reasoning behind this healthy connection.

Rovner, J. (2012, March 5). Pet therapy: How animals and humans heal each other. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/03/09/146583986/pet-therapy-how-animals-and-humans-heal-each-other