I had an incredible experience yesterday and I’m just getting around to writing about it. It took some time to process it all, although I’m not sure I’ve completed it; I imagine it will take awhile, and I’m invited back for another session sometime in the near future.
My employer, a woman who is also my friend, does what is called “equine facilitation”. It’s a complex term for a somewhat complicated (yet simple) procedure. I’ll try to explain as best I can, but please bear with me if I struggle with the explanation.
Essentially, this equine facilitated grief session involves healing with horses. As my friend explained to me, horses are very intelligent and intuitive animals. They have the ability to “mirror” the humans around them, feeding off of their emotions and energy field. By interacting with the horse, and interpreting its behavior as it relates to your own, one can take a look inside and work toward healing.
Think of it as the horse being a psychotherapist, the kind that continuously asks questions of his or her patient, forcing the patient to look inside himself or herself on the path to self-discovery. Only by understanding one’s own feelings can an individual progress towards his or her best self. Make sense? Let me describe my experience and perhaps you’ll understand.
As we drove out to the farm where her horses are kept, we talked a bit about how I’ve been doing, and my “process” of healing to this point. She questioned whether I even have a process, or simply address my feelings when they arise.
Although I have the capability of compartmentalization and utilize it when necessary, I talk to my husband daily, generally on my commute to/from work. I consider it “our time”, and it is simply an extension of our usual behaviors when I would call my husband on my ride home and we would talk about anything and everything, the important and the mundane. This has become the time when I tell him about things the kids have done or are doing, I cry and tell him how much I miss him, I rail against the unfairness of his passing, and I lash out about his leaving, I thank him for loving me. And on it goes, a veritable rainbow of emotions. So I explained this to her and how I’m just trying to get through each day, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so.
As we pulled into the farm, she told me about the horses and explained the mirroring process a bit more. Then she allowed me to introduce myself to her two horses, Iberian and Officer, both Arabians who used to perform in her dinner theater, Arabian Nights, an Orlando area attraction for over 25 years. I was instructed to determine to which one I had the stronger
connection. Iberian walked up to me at the edge of his stall and visited for a few minutes before turning back around and heading the other way, while I thought “that can’t be good!” So I spoke in hushed tones and told him he was handsome and thanked him for saying hello.
Then I walked to Officer’s stall a few steps away and he came right up to me and began to nudge me a bit while I told him how big and strong he was. I spent a few more minutes there before I was told to step back away from the stalls and determine with which horse I had a stronger “heart bond”. Then I got closer to each stall again. When my friend stepped next to me and we looked at Iberian still across the other side of the stall, I said, “he seems to be turning his back on me.” She remarked that the horse does indeed have a choice in the matter, too.
But then she pointed down the barn a bit where Officer was still hanging out of his stall. She said “do you notice his ears? They will point where he is looking. And he is definitely looking at you.” It seems Officer would be my partner for this session, so she put a lead on him and we walked him out of the barn.
She explained about a horse’s “energy field” and how strong it is. She showed me where his heart was and how large it is. Then she had me walk around Officer and make my heart connection until I finally took my place by his side. With her guidance, I spoke to the horse and told him my story. She guided me through telling him my best time with A, my worst time since he was gone, my best time since he was gone, and my worst time with him.
While I spoke to him, she simply stood back and let me interact with Officer, occasionally making comments and drawing my attention to his behavior, which was mirroring my own, at times dropping his head when I became extremely sad, or pawing at the ground when I expressed frustration or anger. He would also communicate with me in other ways, at times breathing heavily (which I learned was him telling me to “breathe” and “let it out” – strangely enough, I have often found myself holding my breath unknowingly, not realizing I had been doing so until I was finally forced to exhale), and “yawning” at other times (which is also an indication of “letting go”).
I went through several tissues during this exercise, and probably could have used several more. Telling my story to Officer and physically leaning on his strong body, heart to heart was cleansing and cathartic. As I told G afterwards, when she asked what I learned and how I felt, I felt as though Officer were telling me that everything was going to be OK. To just keep moving forward, keep breathing, and I would get through this.
Whether it was the crying, the deep breathing (at one point, I was breathing with Officer)
or the feeling of peace that overcame me when Officer “spoke” to me, I can’t be sure. But I do know that I left the farm in a good place. And we saw a beautiful rainbow on the way back to her house, which we both feel was a good sign.
When I do go back, it will be interesting to see if it will be Officer who chooses me again, or if Iberian will change his mind and decided he’d like to work with me this time. In either case, I will be better prepared and require less instruction and it will be interesting to see what either one has to say to me next time.
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