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How Horses Guided One Therapist From Fear to Freedom

Nicole Clarke, MS, Intake Manager of Outpatient Services

I recently had the opportunity to attend Spirit: A Somatic Equine Workshop at The Meadows. It was a life- influencing experience, am excited to share a little of my story with you.

As a clinician and someone who encourages others to experience their emotions daily, it was not until I worked with a horse that immediately knew me better than I knew myself that I was able to see the power of somatic experiencing.

I arrived scared to approach a horse from a bad experience more than 20 years ago. I was thankful for the setting, the facilitators Coleen and Buddy, the other group members, and of course, the horses. All immediately made me feel welcome. Within two hours I was able to walk up to the horse that I was encouraged to work with for my processing. Little did I know, the horse had already chosen me.

Letting Your Emotions Guide Your Thoughts

Along with the education and rapport building with others, I found a continuous feeling of peace on the ranch that I could not ignore. As a traditionally trained talk therapist, I knew that the concept of working the “other way,” by allowing my emotions to guide my thoughts was going to be a challenge.

“Let it go,” and “go ahead and feel that,” were two things I vividly remember Coleen saying to me. “Ok, how did that feel?,” was a question Buddy asked me multiple times. It was clear to me on the first day how difficult the transition would be for me but I was ready to trust the process and leave all I had learned behind, even if only for those three days.

e would not be comfortable coming near me until I learned to be honest about how I felt. The horse would not let me lie.

Walking into the circular pen alone with the horse for my first somatic experiencing exercise was immediately insightful. My emotions were in chaos and my long-term defense mechanism of talking them away would not work in this situation. Not only was I supportive and encouraged by Buddy and Coleen to finally allow myself to feel things I had buried for so long, but the horse also let me know that sh As my left brain continued to fight the desire to let my emotions be felt, the facilitators and group continued to provide support through experiential exercises that did not tell me, but showed me it was ok to “let go.” It is always nice to have support from others, but there is nothing like having a horse walk up to you, its head low with eyes half closed, showing support for the pain you were finally allowing yourself to feel.

Transformative Healing

Each day I drove back to the Buddy’s Ranch wondering what insights the day would provide. As I increased my personal insights through progressive relaxation, experiential processing with others, and somatic experiencing, I would begin to realize that I was learning more about myself in these three days than I had in the last 20 years.

By day two, I had already begun to change. I returned home from the workshop to continue with everyday life and experienced something that would have typically upset me. Instead of getting frustrated and overthinking the situation, I was able to recognize how I felt internally and work on that discomfort. It was amazing how I quickly made better decisions in spite of that frustration. It was an initial learning experience that I have returned to many times since leaving the workshop.

In my position at The Meadows I frequently get asked about this specific workshop and who it might be helpful for. I now get to smile to myself and answer that question from my heart and not my head. I tell people that this is a special workshop, one that promises to be life changing and unlike anything that you have ever experienced. This is true for all individuals, including clinicians and horse trainers.

There are no words to express my gratitude for the experience. It has made me a better person and for three days, allowed me to truly see myself as the person I am, and not just describe her in a way I had seen fit.

Register for Spirit: A Somatic Equine Workshop

The Spirit Equine Workshop allows participants to address self-esteem, boundaries, honoring reality, wants and needs, emotional regulation, and spontaneity through experiential activities with horses. It was created exclusively for a small group of no more than five participants and is facilitated by two gifted extremely gifted professionals. If you’re looking for a way to achieve a real emotional break-through, this may be the perfect workshop for you. For more details, call 800-244-4949, or visit the workshop’s webpage.

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