Healing Strides has chosen to partner with horses to serve our community in many different ways through different equine assisted programs--But we are certainly not the first to do this. Throughout human history, horses have been our partners in helping feed our people, build towns, and fight our wars. But these are just a few of the physical ways they have been able to help mankind move forward as a progressive society. As we have engineered and advanced into the industrialized era, some think horses have taken the “back seat role” in bettering our society, but I would beg to differ. Someone once said, “No other animal has been as influential on human evolution as horses, and we are only now just scratching the surface of their true contribution.” And surely you have all heard the quote from Winston Churchill “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Well, I believe he was on to something there…
In the horse world, it is often said that horses mirror our emotions and energy back to us. Despite having worked with horses my whole life, this belief has never resonated more to me than right now. This “mirroring back” often reflects the good, the bad, the pretty and the ugly side of us all. However, it’s how we choose to see those reflections and engage with them that allows us to truly change from the inside out.
I’ve learned to keep the perspective over the years that horses only know how to “horse”. They only know how to “horse” within the present moment, their response being neither right nor wrong, but rather honest and true to what they are feeling in that moment in time. This allows them to engage with and reflect the energy and emotions that are around them back into the world. Horses do not care what words we say; Instead, they base their response on our body language, energy, tone, and intention behind the action. How we show up to the partnership every day is our choice.
Because we are working within the prey/predator dynamic when partnering with our horses, it can be a very unique and powerful experience. When we are facing the “mirror” of the horse, we face no judgement but an honest reflection of our energy and intention back to us; The horse sees us as we are and responds in a sincere and genuine way. This can help us become vulnerable and open in a world where we can feel judged and even shamed for being who we are, where we are at that moment.
Similar to humans, horses build relationships throughout their lives. They are looking for companionship, trust, and stability within their “herd”. They demonstrate strong leadership and direction without using force or coercion and are always striving to be in a state of relaxation and peace. They accomplish this through clear boundaries and an understanding of each individual and the inner workings of the herd.
They offer us the honor and privilege to join their circle of trust with every interaction we have with them. If we start to face our inner fears and anxieties, become honest with ourselves and the horses in a way we maybe never would with people, …. horses will demonstrate to us how to be quieter, kinder, and reflect back to the world the kind of energy we want to be greeted with.
They have the distinctive ability to hold space physically, emotionally and energetically to support us as we process through our “stuff” that we bring to the table daily. They can’t give us the answers directly but they can help support us as we struggle, learn, and change throughout this thing we call life.
Being open and vulnerable with humans can be hard because of the fear that you may be judged. The thing about horses is that they will not judge but they will respond to you in a true, authentic way and part of our journey is to learn to trust that this response is accurate and genuine. When we enter a partnership with a horse, we have to be open to seeing the potential in the horse and in ourselves. A willingness to listen, change and learn is vital. Only by changing our energy and intentions will we see the horse reflect back what we want to see within ourselves.
I’ve come to realize horses owe us nothing. They do not owe us their obedience, their respect, nor their sense of safety and comfort. But they are willing to try. They are willing to give of themselves, to step out on a limb and offer us something not many people get to experience in life: true, unjudged, and fully trusting friendship.
Holding no grudges nor record of our past doings, they come to us daily with vulnerability. We can choose to close ourselves off from this experience, or we can choose to believe them and learn from their example, casting off the worry about being judged for who we are and the struggles we face.
Healing Strides works with our horses to inspire hope in our communities. We strive to serve others in a way that will allow them to leave here with hope of the potential they see, hope for the possibilities and opportunities they have and hope for a better tomorrow. But the people with the highest levels of hopefulness in life have already experienced, embraced and understand what true struggle is. Because without struggle in life, we cannot grasp nor appreciate when life gives us nuggets of gold, rays of sunshine, and glimmers of hope for what’s to come. Horses inspire hope.
During our 2022 fundraising event, several of our horses carried printed words representing the powerful impacts and benefits they offer us humans. These words were as follows:
Hold space, Leadership, Direction, Non-judgmental, Build Relationships, Willing, Examples, Individuals, Circle of Trust, Potential, Peace, Relaxation, Present, Intention, Vulnerable, Hope, Opportunities, Change, Learn, Service, Overcoming Fears, Build Confidence, Self-awareness, Honesty, Boundaries, Friendship, Reflection, Empathy, Choices.